If you’ve lived in Hawaiʻi for any length of time, you know that shipping items to the state can present some challenges. Some stores don’t ship to Hawaiʻi, while others tack on exorbitant fees. Still others are willing to ship to Hawaiʻi—but exclude certain items. 


Along these lines, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get lithium batteries to Hawaiʻi. Many residents have noticed the dreaded This item cannot be shipped to your selected delivery location line popping up on Amazon when trying to order items with lithium batteries. Additionally, the U.S. military recently announced rules banning lithium metal and lithium-ion batteries in household moves, set to take effect May 15, 2023. 


What kind of solutions are available for shipping lithium batteries to Hawaiʻi? We’ll walk you through your options below. We’ll also explain the “why” behind these rules, so you can come up with the right plan to get what you need to Hawaiʻi. 

Know Your Batteries: Lithium Metal vs. Lithium Ion Batteries 

Lithium batteries come in two types: 

  1. Lithium metal batteries, which contain metallic lithium and are non-rechargeable. You’ll find these batteries in watches or car key fobs. 
  2. Lithium ion batteries, which contain lithium in ionic form. These rechargeable batteries are used in devices such as cell phones, computers, and more.  

Although you‘ll sometimes see “lithium battery” used as a blanket term, the rules and limits for each type can be different. It’s important to know the difference, so you can stay compliant with relevant regulations. 

Why Are There Restrictions Around Lithium Batteries? 

So many of the objects we rely on for everyday life use lithium batteries. Cell phones, tablets, laptops, electric toothbrushes, rechargeable keyboards and mice, and Bluetooth headsets all rely on lithium batteries. So do e-bikes, e-cigarettes, AirTags, hoverboards, electric scooters, mobility scooters, digital cameras, and more.

In fact, lithium batteries have become so prevalent that it might be hard to understand why they’re restricted at all.

The bottom line is that lithium batteries are classified as a hazardous material by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Under certain conditions, lithium batteries can overheat and ignite, resulting in difficult-to-extinguish fires.

For example, you may remember the 2018 fire in the cargo hold of a Delta flight from Salt Lake City, UT to Bozeman, MT. In that incident, a lithium-ion battery in a piece of checked luggage overheated.

Lithium battery fires in airplane cargo holds can be particularly dangerous. The fire suppression systems built into these cargo holds generally use Halon to starve a fire of oxygen. However, this method isn’t particularly effective when it comes to lithium battery fires.

Because of their hazardous nature, there are significant restrictions around how lithium ion batteries are shipped. These rules especially come into play when you’re looking at shipping batteries to a remote destination like Hawaiʻi.

Shipping Lithium Ion Batteries to Hawaiʻi

When lithium batteries head for Hawaiʻi, they move via one of two transportation modes:

Ocean Freight 

Lithium batteries can be moved to Hawaiʻi via ocean freight. However, they will be considered hazardous materials, and, as such, there are rules governing packaging, placement, labeling, placarding, and paperwork.  

For companies moving significant quantities of lithium batteries—for example, a bike shop on Oʻahu that regularly replenishes its stock of e-bikes—a freight forwarder can assist with proper packaging, handling, paperwork, and delivery so these goods can get to Hawaiʻi via ocean freight.  

Air Freight 

Incidents such as the Delta flight we mentioned above have led to greater restrictions around lithium ion batteries on planes. In 2019, the FAA banned the transportation of lithium ion cells and batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft. (In case you didn’t know, air cargo often travels in the belly of passenger planes!) The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) adopted similar safety measures in 2016. 

However, that doesn’t mean lithium batteries can’t travel on planes. 

  1. Lithium batteries can travel in carry-on luggage, with some restrictions. Cell phones, laptops, smart watches, etc. are all good to go. Same with those external portable power banks for charging cell phones. Additionally, some portable electronic devices with lithium batteries can be placed in checked baggage. (Check the FAA PackSafe chart for full details.) So if you’re planning to ship an item to the mainland and bring it back with you on the plane, you very well may be able to, as long as you follow FAA regulations. 
  2. Lithium ion batteries can also fly in cargo-only aircraft, with some limitations. As with all hazardous materials, proper packaging, handling, and labeling are required.  


Now that you’ve got an understanding of how lithium batteries get to Hawaiʻi—and why proper handling is a must—let’s take a look at emerging restrictions around lithium batteries within military household goods moves.  

Shipping Lithium Ion Batteries as Part of a Military Move

For more than 30 years, Royal Hawaiian Movers has assisted our U.S. servicemembers and their families moving to and from Hawaiʻi. Since we became aware of the U.S. military’s intention to change their policies around lithium batteries in household goods shipments and storage, we’ve kept our eye on the issue.

Currently, we’re waiting for definitive guidance from the U.S. military on lithium batteries. Initial reports have stated that lithium batteries won’t be allowed in long-term storage, and that lithium batteries in household goods shipments will be restricted.

A fact sheet is expected at the end of March. We’ll update this article as soon as we have final confirmation of the new rules.

How Can I Get Items with Lithium Ion Batteries Shipped to Hawaiʻi?

Given all the restrictions around lithium batteries—and the fact that some vendors, such as Amazon, officially won’t ship items containing lithium batteries to Hawaiʻi—you might find yourself searching for solutions.

We already mentioned one: Ship the item to an address on the mainland, and carry it back with you on the plane. (Make sure to double-check the FAA rules before making your purchase!)

There are also commercial carriers that ship items with lithium batteries to Hawaiʻi:

One More Solution for Getting Your Hands on Lithium Batteries in Hawaiʻi

At the end of the day, when you need an item containing a lithium battery—especially a large one—your best bet may be to buy local. On-island businesses have already jumped through all the hoops to get these batteries to Hawaiʻi, which can save you a ton of time and research. Buying local also supports your island’s economy and the families who count on your business for their livelihood. If you can find what you need in stock at a local store, it can be a win-win for you and a Hawaiʻi-based business.

Finally, in cases where buying local isn’t an option, you’ve now got a couple of solutions to help you get your lithium battery shipment safely to Hawaiʻi.

Moving to Hawaiʻi? Concerned about getting your belongings out here—including any with lithium batteries? Our experts would be happy to help! Just get in touch, and we’ll help you create a complete solution for your move.

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