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Intermediate Bulk Containers: A Guide to Types, Dimension & Specifications

intermediate bulk container for shipping

Having multiple benefits, the Intermediate Bulk Containers are reusable and serve multiple industrial purposes. IBC stands for Intermediate Bulk Container, are produced across a volume range that is in the middle of that of standard delivery drums and intermodal tank holders; that is where they get their name from, i.e., ‘intermediate’ bulk containers. 

They are specifically designed for mass management, transportation, and storing fluids, semi-solids, solids, and pastes, etc. IBC (Intermediate Bulk Containers) totes are generally made from Polyethylene, Carbon, or stainless Steel or are a composition of both. They are known by multiple names: 

  • IBC Tote 
  • IBC Tank 
  • Pallet Tank 

IBC Container prices can go from $180 up to $3,000 USD and are based upon and vary with the IBC model and its gallon limit. 


IBCs come in a variety of sizes ranging from 110 to 550 gallons. Among them, the most common are 275 and 330 gallons.  

IBC containers have inbuilt fixed pallet bases that include  

  • Forklifts 
  • Pallet jack channels with mobility access for either of the following 
    • 2-way movement 
    • 3-way movement 
    • 4-way movement.  

The degree of access to the tools and hardware fluctuates with the IBC model. The table below reviews the variation in portability by IBC model: 

2-Way Pallet Jack 4-Way Forklift Standard Square Stackable, Premium, Wide mouth IBCs  
3-Way Pallet Jack 3-Way Forklift Carbon Steel, Stainless Steel IBCs  
4-Way Pallet Jack 4-Way Forklift  Caged IBC Totes, HDPE IBCs 

The standard measurements of IBCs are generally 45″L x 45″W around the world. They have in-built pallet and forklift access and stacking abilities. IBCs are convenient for the transportation of both fluid and solid materials.  

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The three broad types of IBCs in use today can be classified under the following groups: 

Cardboard IBC tanks

Cardboard IBC containers are usually made up of rigid cardboard without any need for a cooling system. Their unique features make them 

Cardboard IBC tanks
Cardboard IBC tanks
  • Maintainable 
  • Stackable 
  • Foldable holders.  

Rigid IBC tanks

Rigid IBC containers are generally made up of plastic or steel or from a composite combination of the two materials. Rigid IBC holders require a pooling framework to dispatch the IBC’s from processing manufacturing plants to clients and vice versa.  

Rigid IBC tanks
Rigid IBC tanks

Their unique features make them  

  • Reusable 
  • Stackable  
  • Non-foldable holder 

Rigid IBC containers require a pooling framework to dispatch the IBC’s from a processing plant to the client and back once more.  

They have a fixed pallet base mount that gives forklift or pallet jack mobility. IBC tank limits commonly have a volume capacity of 1,040 and 1,250 liters. 

Flexible IBC tanks 

FIBCs are often made of thick polypropylene; other materials can include  

  • Fiberboard 
  • Wood 
  • Aluminum.  

The big bags are often operated by forklift trucks, cranes, or hoists when filled. They are lifted through ropes/loops, which are fastened to the bags. 

FIBC containers are also known as Bulk Bag, Big Bag, or Tote, usually designed to ship and store dry solids without any need for further packing. These items may include  

  • Sand 
  • Granules 
  • Plastics. 
  • Powder 
  • flakes 

The amazing thing about the FIBCc is that you can customize the measurements, management, filling, releasing, and barrier according to your needs.  

FIBCs ordinarily hold somewhere in the range of 500 to 2000 kg weight of the goods in them and have the volume capacity of 285–2,830 liters.  

The other common types include: 

Container type Composition of the body Contact with products Collapsible/ non-collapsible 
Metal IBC metal commonly steel or aluminumdirect or through an internal liner collapsible if it’s empty 
Flexible IBC  made of woven texture, plastics or paperdirect or through an internal liner collapsible if it’s empty 
Rigid Plastic IBC plasticsdirect or through an internal liner Rigid whether it’s filled or empty 
Composite IBC structural equipment in the form of a rigid outer casing forming a single unit direct or through an internal liner rigid, semi-rigid or flexible but does not directly take the stresses of distribution. 
Fibreboard IBC  fibreboarddirect or through an internal liner Rigid whether it’s filled or empty 
Wooden IBC sawn timber or wood panels such as plywood or reconstituted wood direct or through an internal liner Rigid whether it’s filled or empty 

Why We Need Intermediate Bulk Containers?

IBCs are very efficient to securely transport various products. Cube molded rigid IBCs frequently have a standard impression of 48″x40″. It serves many purposes, including simple transportation because of its being a typical pallet size in North America and different countries. 

A hose can be joined with a tap or valve at the base of the container to permit the transfer of substance into smaller holders for efficient and easy  

  • Packing 
  • Transit 
  • Distribution 
  • Sale.  

For shipping or storage, cube-shaped rigid IBCs can be stacked for ideal utilization of space during transportation and capacity. Moreover, both collapsing and flexible IBCs utilize even less space once they are emptied. 

Below we have discussed the most common types of IBCs and the reason to choose each one. 

The most common IBC Container type with respect to: Unique Feature: Why go for them: 
Volume 275 gallons and 330 gallons Their similarity to 55-gallon drum-pallet sizes and volumes 
Model Composite Steel-caged poly totes Lesser cost and more variety. 
Material HDPE or High-density polyethylene used in composite and all plastic  Reliability and compatibility. 
Food Grade  Stainless steel metal IBCs  strict Cleanliness capabilities. 

Common Uses

Generally, IBCs are used for shipping and storing the following item 

  • Chemicals 
  • Liquids 
  • Drugs 
  • Solvents 
  • Food syrups 
  • Sand 
  • Grains 

Common Heights of Intermediate Bulk Containers

IBCs have been designed with bases that keep up the container’s footprint and measurements inside a norm, acceptable worldwide sizes. IBCs come in various sizes ranging from 110 gallons up to 550 gallons while keeping up the IBC’s footprint details.  

An average IBC base dimension is 1,143 mm × 1,143 mm. IBC tanks are capable of carrying equivalent volumes in less shipping space and in significantly less steps, both in terms of manufacturing and logistics. We have explained the space utilization comparison in the form of a table: 

4 drums 1 pallet 
1 IBC  1 pallet 
1 275-gallon IBC 5 drums 
5 drums 1.25 pallets 
1 330-gallon IBC 6 drums 
6 drums  1.5 pallets 

Intermediate bulk containers are manufactured with various size dimensions as well as potential custom options. You can select from the IBCs option that best suits your individual requirements and shipping needs.

IBC Type Capacity Dimensions 
Poly Cage Composite 275 up to 330 Gallons 45″ x 40″ x 46″ to 48″ x 40″ x 53″ 
High Density Polyethylene 120 up to 550 Gallons 45″ x 45″ x 36.5″ to 81″ x 48″ x 60″ 
Carbon Steel 110 up to 550 Gallons 48″ x 40″ x 20″ to 48″ x 42″ x 71″ 
Stainless Steel 110 up to 550 Gallons 48″ x 40″ x 20″ to 48″ x 42″ x 71″ 

Now let’s take a look at the volume 

IBC type Capacity IBCs in 53ft Truck Total IBC Volume Cubic Volume Total 
Metal IBC Tanks 250-350 Gal 28 – 56 IBCs 9,240– 14,000 Gallons 1,960 – 2,287 Cu.Ft 
Small Height IBCs 110 to 250 gallons 56 – 84 IBCs 9,240-14,000 Gallons 1,960 – 2,287 Cu.Ft. 
Metal IBCs 450-550 Gallon 30 IBCs 13,500–16,500 Gallons 2,065 – 4,376 Cu.Ft.  


Most used standard pallet dimension are 

Length Width Height Area 
48’’ 48’’ 50’’ 13.3 sq.ft. 

Base Dimensions: 

Base Length Base Width Base Area 
45’’ 45’’ 14.06 sq.ft. 

What is the guidance for the storage of liquids in intermediate bulk containers? 

NFPA 30 just allows three sorts of IBCs in industries, including 

  • Metal 
  • Rigid Plastic 
  • Composite. 

Just fluids with a boiling point of 38 C (100 degrees F) or more are allowed to be put away in these holders. Moreover, the composite IBCs should be recorded and labeled.  

What is the top Manufacturer of Intermediate Bulk Containers? 

Schutz is one of the top international manufacturers of the IBC system. Schutz Ecobulk IBC offers quality services. Their efficient use of space and less weight brings maximum security and user-friendliness for your items. 

How you can Use Intermediate Bulk Containers to Manage Cargo effectively? 

Generally, IBCs have cube shapes, which does the packing, storing, and shipping very convenient. It also makes efficient use of the space inside the container.  

Rigid IBC totes include fixed pallet bases with measurements that are for the most part close to the normal pallet standard element of 

  • 1,200 mm × 1,000 mm 
  • 1,219 mm × 1,067 mm 

The IBC container pallet base facilitates mobility through forklift and pallet jack channels. Practically all rigid IBCs are planned so they can be stacked vertically, one on the other utilizing a forklift.  

Mostly, the design of rigid IBC has an inherent tap, a valve, nozzle, or a fixture at the base of the container to which hoses can be joined. 

IBC totes offer a minimal effort choice to a great extent proposed for one-time use in applications including shipping solvents, acids, caustics, cleansers, ag crop synthetics, and food industry items. They are also used for water storage.  

HDPE IBCs are appropriate for transporting and storing synthetic substances, oil-based goods, water, and general perilous, non-dangerous materials. 

The carbon steel IBC type is generally utilized for synthetic compounds, ointments, oils, and solvents. The hardened steel IBC model is all around utilized inside the food, refreshment, grape plantations, makeup, and drug businesses because of their serious cleanliness capacities. 

IBCs bring more efficiency in transportation and packaging. Particularly when considering using different IBC tanks. Moreover, IBCs can be manufactured according to a customer’s exact needs in terms of space, measurements, and material. 

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Other Benefits 

There are numerous benefits served by its unique design of the IBC model:  

  • Being cubic in structure, they can move more material in a similar impression in contrast to other containers and unquestionably more than may be sent in a similar space. 
  • Composite IBCs depend on plastic liners that can be filled and released with various frameworks.  
  • High association, portability, combination abilities.  
  • Better logistics services and dealing with timetables 
  • Increased reliability of IBC manufacturing materials.  
  • It gives a solid and predictable approach to deal with or store materials.  

IBCs are regularly used to transport, handle, or potentially store:  

  • Mass synthetic compounds, including risky materials or perilous products  
  • Items and crude materials utilized in mechanical creation  
  • Fluid, granulated, and powdered food syrups, etc. 

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