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Sunday, September 19, 2021

What Is an IBC tank?

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a blue IBC

Source: AlexLMX / Shutterstock.com


You may have seen IBC tanks before; they typically resemble large cubes, some soft, some rigid. Numerous sectors utilize IBCs for bulk transportation of various solid and liquid substances. They offer several advantages over other containers, such as versatility, stackability and space efficiency. 

What Is the Purpose of an IBC?

What is an IBC tank? IBC stands for Intermediate Bulk Container. They are industrial containers designed to transport liquids and certain solids and semi-solids, such as powders, pastes or granulated substances.

Although many types, materials and form factors exist, the vast majority of IBCs used worldwide have a capacity of either 275 or 330 gallons. The term “intermediate” refers to their capacity, falling between standard drums (55 gallons) and tank containers or ISO tanks (5,500 gallons).

IBC tanks may also be known as pallet tanks, as their dimensions (45″x 45″) approximately match a standard drum shipping pallet.

stacked IBCs being stored outside

Source: Marco Torelli Fotografia / Shutterstock.com

What Are IBCs Made Of?

IBCs are available in three broad categories: plastic (composite), cardboard and steel.

Plastic IBCs

Plastic IBCs (also known as composite IBCs) are the most common. These IBCs employ both plastic and steel in a two-part construction: a plastic container made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) encased inside a protective stainless steel cage and pallet base.

The steel cage protects the tank from impacts and lacerations, and the steel pallet base allows forklifts to move and transport them without the risk of punctures.

Plastic IBCs are among the most versatile, suitable for transporting different substances: water, paints, solvents, coatings, various industrial chemicals and more. They are also ideal for rainwater collection.

Shop Shipping Drums, Barrels & Totes

Cardboard IBCs

Cardboard or particleboard IBCs resemble large Gaylord boxes. A typical cardboard IBC is mounted on a standard wood pallet and fitted with a form-fitting plastic inner liner. 

If you’ve ever seen the liner poly bag in lithium-ion battery packaging, IBC liners function on a similar principle. They protect the IBC from being stained, damaged or destroyed by the substance it is intended to transport.

The food industry frequently employs cardboard IBCs with food-grade liners to transport food products and ingredients, such as molasses, corn syrup, liquid chocolate, sodas or wine.

Steel IBCs

Steel IBCs are typically stainless or carbon steel, known for their durability, long service life and corrosion resistance. Although far heavier than other types (a typical 350-gallon stainless steel IBC weighs about 470 lbs.), they are suitable for transporting flammables, combustibles and other substances that would be too hazardous to transport in another IBC type.

A well-maintained steel IBC can last up to 10 years, making it one of the most cost-effective bulk transportation tanks available.

an IBC next to steel drums

Source: AlexLMX / Shutterstock.com

What Advantages Do IBCs Offer?

IBCs offer numerous advantages to the many industries that employ them.

Space Efficiency

Regardless of the type employed, an IBC’s cubic dimensions make it naturally easy to stack, filling containers, truck trailers and other transport vehicles more effectively than drums and other round containers.

For example, a 330-gallon IBC has the same capacity as six standard 55-gallon drums, but its dimensions provide roughly the same space as four palletized 55-gallon drums. In other words, an IBC offers up to 150% more space efficiency over drums or equivalent containers.

Buy Top-Quality 275-Gallon and 330-Gallon IBCs


Like custom shipping boxes, various IBC types and form factors are available to transport specialized goods, allowing you to adapt your containers to your business. 

Although standard IBCs typically have a capacity of 275 or 330 gallons, many more size factors are available, ranging from mini-IBCs (110 gallons or the equivalent of two drums) to extra-large models (550 gallons or ten drums). The wide variety of form factors available lets you adapt your IBCs to your business and use only the types you need, saving time and money.

Most IBCs are standardized to 45″x 45″ for easy forklift transportation; the only difference between each capacity is the container’s height. For example, a 110-gallon mini-IBC is no more than 20″ tall, whereas a 550-gallon model may be up to 6 feet tall.


IBCs are suitable for transporting various substances, ranging from water and food products to hazardous materials. In a sense, IBCs are the bulk equivalent of hazmat boxes, possessing similar versatility.

IBCs transporting hazardous substances must employ suitable hazmat-safe materials and possess all appropriate markings, labeling and signage. Ensuring you follow all relevant hazmat shipping rules and regulations is critical, as violating them may result in facing harsh penalties.

Contact Air Sea Containers for All Your IBC Needs

Air Sea Containers has over 30 years of experience providing safe, cost-effective and legally compliant solutions for the packaging and transportation of hazardous materials.

Browse our wide selection of UN-certified boxes, drums, IBCs, packaging materials, hazmat placards and other products. For more information on our shipping containers or materials, call us at (866) 801-2581. 


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