Guide to Flexitanks and their applications

Update date:
22 Mar 2024
Date of publication:
22 Mar 2024
Reading time: 5 minutes

Table of contents:

More than 11 billion goods are transported globally every year. This is why container transport has developed so dynamically over the last 50 years. There are many types of containers used for transport (depending on the type of cargo and the requirements of the shipment). However, Flexitank containers are a popular choice for shipping liquid cargo in large volumes. 

A bit about Flexi Tanks

Flexitanks are flexible tanks that offer safe storage and transport of liquid cargoes in bulk.Below is a technical definition:

"A Flexitank can be described as a hermetically sealed, collapsible and flexible bag that is housed in a 20 DV or 20-foot container. Flexitanks commonly used in the industry can hold up to 24,000 litres of liquid cargo. 

Most flexitanks offer a capacity of 10,000 to 24,000 litres on average. However, there are flexitanks that are adapted to the requirements of the cargo - in the range of 1,000 litres to 100,000 litres.

History of the Flexitank container

The original idea for flexitanks was developed during the Second World War for the transportation of diesel and fuel by Marston Excelsior - as "dimensionless fuel tanks with self-closing lids through cooperation with ICI made of fabric between layers of rubber-like material".

In the 1960s, the US Army used flexitanks to store and transport water and diesel fuel. Later, in the 1970s, carriers in the UK needed to transport liquid materials outside the UK. . They considered ISO tanks, but they were an expensive option (costing around $5,000 each), so they opted to transport liquids in relatively cheaper, heavy-duty rubber bags reminiscent of today's flexi tanks.

In the 1990s, these rubber containers were replaced by a more durable and less expensive material, thermoplastic (PVC), selling at $1,850 apiece. They were the basic prototype for today's flexitanks and quickly became the preferred choice for chemical shipments.

At the beginning of the 21st century, newer, cheaper and more recently familiar versions of flexitanks entered the market. Made from multiple layers of thin polyethylene.Flexitanks became a one-way market, offering 'supply and install' options tailored to the individual needs of shippers and companies at an affordable cost. As the global economy grew, shippers and the logistics industry used flexitanks to transport all kinds of liquids using flexitanks. 

What is Flexitank made of?

The Flexitank is a liquid cargo tank capable of transporting large volumes of liquid. It is made of numerous layers of polyethylene and an outer covering of polypropylene.

They are manufactured from different types of materials, such as:

  • Multilayer polyethylene
  • Single and double layer of polyethylene
  • PVC

Flexi Tank applications

Flexitanks are an extremely versatile solution that is used in a variety of areas. Here are the five main applications of flexitanks:

  • Fuel storage: Flexitanks make it easy to store and transport liquid fuels such as petrol, diesel and oils. They are mainly used for storage and offer additional safety thanks to the special padding and safety pad.
  • Drinking water storage: Flexitanks take up little space and are easy to transport, so they are also used for storing and transporting drinking water in case of emergencies or disaster relief.
  • Storage of food liquids: with flexitanks, food-grade liquid ingredients such as milk, juices, wines, fructose syrup and others can be stored safely.
  • Storage of industrial chemicals: flexitank containers are ideal for transporting and storing liquid chemicals used in industry, such as washing liquids, lubricants, fertilisers, liquid latex, paints and more.

Advantages of Flexitanks:

There are many benefits to using flexitanks, which is why they are becoming an increasingly popular choice among carriers. Here are the advantages of using flexitanks:

  • Economic option: flexitanks are cheaper than drums, IBCs and ISO containers. The cost of using flexitanks is 33% less than the cost of transporting bulk liquids using traditional liquid containers.
  • Larger Capacity: Flexitanks can carry 15% more cargo than IBCs, 44% more than drums and 50% more than bottles. They are therefore an economically viable option for hauliers.
  • Preservation of product quality: Flexitanks ensure the preservation of fluid quality through multiple layers of polyethylene, each with a pump and valve, making them air, water and weather tight. They are mainly designed for single use, which significantly reduces the risk of contamination.
  • Faster Loading and Unloading: flexitank containers do not require the use of a forklift for loading or unloading. The entire loading and unloading process is up to 90% faster compared to the cost of using drums or IBCs, further reducing product loss during the process.
  • Less labour involvement Because flexitanks are convenient to handle, load and unload, there is significantly less labour involvement. This results in significantly lower logistics revenues.

Recommended Flexitank capacity by liquid type

The most commonly available flexitank containers range in capacity from 10 000L to 24 000L. Flexitank models are available in capacities of 16,000L, 18,000L, 20,000L, 22,000L and 24,000L.

Some companies also offer a range from 1 000L to 100 000L - depending on customer requirements.

The recommended capacity of a flexitank depends mainly on the density of the fluid rather than the quantity of the load. There is a common mistake of purchasing a flexitank with a larger capacity than the amount of the total fluid load, which is not always the optimal solution. It is important to match the correct flexitank capacity to the specific type of liquid to ensure safe transport.

Below is a reference table for the different liquid types and corresponding flexitank capacities:

Product typeDensity (kg/m3)Recommended Flexitank Capacity
Latex60 - 9519 000 litres
Polyol1 10019 000 litres
Glycerine1 26020 000 litres
Palm oil887.521 000 litres
Olive Oil90522 000 litres
Wine985.724 000 litres

Flexitanks market is growing

The growth of the flexitanks market worldwide is translating into significant growth in the liquid freight sector. As more and more companies begin to recognise the benefits of this innovative logistics solution, demand for flexitanks is steadily increasing. There is an increased acceptance and trust from customers who appreciate the flexibility, efficiency and time and cost savings that flexitanks offer compared to traditional transport methods. Forecasts point to further growth in this sector, both in terms of the number of applications and the volume of goods transported. As global trade becomes more widespread and environmental awareness increases, flexitanks can be expected to play an even more important role in the global supply chain, supporting the sustainability and operational efficiency of transport and logistics companies.

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