COA works with BSI on new standard for flexitanks

The use of flexitanks for transporting bulk liquids inside freight containers has increased significantly over the last ten years, from an estimated 40,000 shipments a year in 2002, to a projected 500,000 shipments in 2014.

In order to improve the quality of flexitanks, the Container Owners Association (COA) has commissioned BSI to develop a new standard, designated PAS 1008, for manufacture and testing of this type of equipment. BSI is the UK’s National Standards Body and the PAS launch is expected later this year.

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

Flexitanks offer financial and environmental benefits to businesses and usage has grown significantly across many 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 new PAS 1008, entitled ‘Specification for the manufacturing process and testing of flexitanks’, is designed to enable manufacturers of flexitanks to certify their products. It addresses the testing of materials, performance and labelling, as well as including a test method for determining the flexitank’s resistance to impact when installed in a freight container.   

The initial draft document was developed by the COA. It will be put through a development process that includes a public consultation. A Steering Group, comprising 15 experts across industry will provide technical expertise through reviewing the drafts and resolving comments submitted during the public consultation phase.

Interested parties will have the opportunity to provide technical expertise through the electronic submission of comments during the 4-week public consultation, which is expected to start mid June 2013.

COA flexitank members who are sponsoring 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.

For more information about the PAS 1008 project, or about the COA, please contact Patrick Hicks at the COA Secretariat  on secretary@containerownersassociation.org or telephone +44 (0) 20 8390 0000.