6 Common Misconceptions About Flexitank Logistics
In supply chain management it is very common to equate liquids with solid products. A liquid is usually converted into a discrete item for supply chain purposes. The liquid product is commonly put into a bottle, drum or other container, then stored, transported and, most of all, ordered and traded as a discrete product. In B2C industries this could turn out very convenient, but not in B2B industries where this is often not only a expensive addition to the product, but also prevents the utilization of the liquid-based logistics techniques. One of the most popular liquid transportation techniques is given by the flexitank. The following analysis will stress on some myths about flexitank as means of liquid-based transport.
In the global logistics industry, operators often have common misconceptions about flexitanks such as:
Safety: incidents with cargo stored in a flexitank could have repercussions for those involved in moving the cargo, for example an incident in a motorway can cause massive disruption to traffic due to thorough leakage of product in the asphalt;
Environmental protection: flexible bags are not environmentally friendly because most of them are single-use to be disposed of after the use. On top of that, leakage of product can create pollution in big quantities;
Complete loss and contamination of cargo: a flexitank can lose all cargo carried in case of leakage. Hence the potential of high costs to clean up spillages can occur along with, dependent on stowage on board, contamination of other cargo;
Only a type of product can be carried in a flexitank: obviously a single bag can be filled with only one kind of liquid;
Damage to container due to the stress upon the sidewalls of a freight box;
Price-driven solution for liquid transportation: operators think that the growth of this industry is to be linked to the cost efficient alternative to standard transportation of liquid, and cheaper usually gets on with less security.
Almost all of the above misconceptions are outdated. Manufacturers, trade organizations and regulators have been aware of these risks and have provided answers with publications aimed at enhancing safety and reliability. The flexitank division of Container Owners Association issued a Code of Practice that covered both manufacturing and operational issues. Nowadays flexitanks are 100% recyclable with collection service around the world; they are not supposed to carry hazardous cargo, as a result, the environment impact is limited in case of leakage thanks to the non-hazardous nature of the cargo. Solutions have also come from practice, often operators provide a standard practice check-list for container selection and procedures for bag installation into the container (containers should not be older than 3-5 years, they should be meticulously inspected before the installation, flexitank have to be secured with cardboard sheeting and steel bars) in order to lessen the effect of dynamics forces during transportation. Practice also requires freight containers to be properly labeled to indicate that the contents are a bulk liquid and the information to be passed along the whole transport chain. Last but not least, these bags can carry only a type of liquid restraining suppliers and buyers from trade a mix of products that is instead possible with “discrete liquid”, however, the cost advantages brought by flexitanks should offset this limit.