An IBC or IBC in full ‘Intermediate Bulk Container’ or ‘Intermediate Bulk Container’. This is a container that is used for bulk goods (ores, cereals, etc.) or large capacities of liquids. It may be used for the packaging of dangerous goods and not dangerous. An IBC cannot therefore be used for large (quantity of) objects (e.g. vehicle parts, large batteries, …), for this purpose it is necessary to use so-called “Large Packagings”.
In this article, we will only focus on the use of IBCs as packaging for the transport of dangerous goods. For this purpose an IBC is defined as follows: “IBC” (Intermediate Bulk Container) means a rigid or flexible packaging with a capacity of :
- (a) not more than 3.0 m³ for solids and liquids of packing groups II and III
- (b) not more than 1.5 m³ for solids of packing group I packed in flexible IBCs, composite IBCs or in rigid plastics, fibreboard or wooden IBCs;
- (c) not more than 3.0 m³ for solids of packing group I packed in metal IBCs.
When these receptacles are used as packagings for dangerous goods they shall meet the various requirements as laid down in different regulations, in particular :
- UN-regulations (orange book).
- ADR-RID (regulations for the transport of dangerous goods by road or rail).
- IATA & ICAO (regulations for the air transport of dangerous goods).
- IMDG (regulations for the maritime transport of dangerous goods).
- ADN (regulations for the transport of dangerous goods by inland waterways).
Are all the requirements imposed by these regulations the same?
NO! For example, the transport of goods with UN-numbers
1748, 2208, 2880, 3485, 3486 and 3487 is prohibited in IBCs by the IMDG Code.
As far as IATA is concerned, the use of IBCs is totally prohibited. A
With one exception: if the IBC contains chemicals under UN 3077 with an upper limit of 1000 kg.
But first a word about the different types of IBCs.
IBCs are mainly divided into 2 categories, one for the transport of solids and one for the transport of liquids.
IBCs as a packaging for solids
These IBCs can be made of metal, wood, fibreboard, paper, woven plastics, flexible plastics, rigid plastics or as a composite where the inner receptacle is always made of plastics. The latter composite IBC is probably the most commonly used, it is a plastics inner receptacle which is usually placed in a metal or plastics cage. Check nanolike.com/ for more about IBC tanks.
Within the category of solid packaging we have 2 main sub-categories, namely rigid (rigid) IBCs and flexible (flexible) IBCs. The latter are better known as “Big Bags” and due to their very small footprint the packaging itself is mainly used for transport in the hold of a ship. Flexible IBCs are therefore always fitted with a lifting device, rather than a provision to be lifted along the bottom.
When which type of IBC can/must be used depends mainly on the contents and more particularly on the packing instruction prescribed for that product. These packing instructions are included in the regulations mentioned above. For example, it may be that certain powders that are reactive with water cannot be packed in woven or paper IBCs.
IBCs as packaging for liquids
These IBCs are made of metal, rigid plastics or designed as a composite packaging with the inner receptacle always made of plastics. Again, as with solids, the choice of IBC type depends on the type of product to be packed. In addition, it is also very important that they are chemically resistant and that they can withstand the maximum vapor pressure of the packed liquid.