A new international specification, aimed at improving the quality of flexitanks used for the transport of bulk liquids inside freight containers, was published in early July. Commissioned by the Container Owners Association, the specification – designated PAS (Publicly Available Specification) 1008 – was developed and published by international standards organisation BSI Group, with the goal of providing an industry-wide benchmark for the manufacturing and testing of both flexitanks and the materials used for the manufacture of flexitanks.

The new PAS 1008 – full title: “Specification for the manufacturing process and testing of flexitanks”, now enables flexitank manufacturers to certify their products. It addresses the testing of materials, performance and labelling, and includes a test method for determining the flexitank’s resistance to impact when installed in a freight container.

“There are numerous standards throughout the container shipping industry, but until now there has never been a standard to aid the manufacture or testing of flexitanks, which is important” explains Chris Thornton, the COA’s Flexitank Manager. “A damaged flexitank, for instance, can result in large cost implications due to leaking cargo. In view of that, the flexitank industry recognised the need for better-defined criteria for this growing sector of the bulk liquid packaging sector.”

The use of flexitanks has increased significantly in the last ten years, from an estimated 40,000 shipments a year in 2002, to a projected 500,000 shipments in 2014. Flexitanks offer financial and environmental benefits to businesses and usage has grown significantly acrossmany industries.

The wine industry, for example, was an early adopter of flexitanks, taking advantage of the savings realised through reduced weight compared to traditional glass and plastic bottles, as well as a higher volume of liquid that can be transported using a flexitank rather than bottles.

“Poor quality manufacturing or a lack of testing can make flexitanks more susceptible to damage, resulting in lost or damaged stock as well as the resulting clean-up,” adds Chris Thornton. “In addition to concerns regarding leakage, some shipping lines have been reluctant to carry flexitanks. The pressure placed on the sidewall panels by incorrectly specified or loaded flexitanks can result in the freight container bulging beyond accepted ISO tolerances and can lead to permanent deformation.”

In 2009, the COA drew up a recommended Code of Practice to help improve standards in the manufacture and operation of flexitanks. Following requests from its members for an industry-wide standard, the COA embarked with BSI upon the project to develop a more clearly defined testing and manufacturing specification.

The initial draft document was developed by the COA and was later put through a development process including a public consultation. A Steering Group, comprising some 15 experts across the industry, provided technical expertise through reviewing the drafts and resolving comments submitted during the public consultation phase.

COA flexitank members who have sponsored the project include: Braid Logistics, Cointra, Environmental Packaging Technologies, Flexpack LSM, Full-Pak, Liquatrans Industrial Packaging, PacTec, Philton Polythene Converters, Qingdao Laf, BLT Flexitank Industrial Ltd, Sunderson – Sun Logistics and Trans Ocean Distribution.

PAS 1008 can be purchased from the BSI website at: http://shop.bsigroup.com/pas1008

For further information, please contact Patrick Hicks at the COA Secretariat on secretary@containerownersassociation.org or telephone +44 (0) 20 8390 0000.