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Before it Hits the Shelves: A Flexible Way to Transport Agricultural Oil

Flexitanks can carry liquid shipments of export cargo and import cargo in international trade.

Before it Hits the Shelves: A Flexible Way to Transport Agricultural Oil

Food is one of the most essential ingredients to a person’s well-being. When we step into a grocery store, we are faced with a wide selection of foods, many of which require proper cooking to be safely edible—and oftentimes some type of oil for flavor or to keep it from sticking to the pan. The variety of oils and their use have been increasing over the last five decades.

Among the many available options of agricultural oils, are palm oil, stemming from the pulp of the palm berry, mostly produced in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Colombia. In 2015, U.S. palm oil imports surpassed 2.5 billion pounds.

Obtained from coconut meat or kernels, the Philippines and Indonesia lead coconut oil production. Its popularity continues to surge as well. U.S. 2015 imports exceeded 1.2 billion pounds.

Originating from olives found in the Mediterranean, olive oil is largely produced in Europe. Its import into the U.S. exceeded 705 million pounds in 2015. Together, these three oils accounted for almost 4.5 billion pounds of imported agricultural oil.

While logistics transports this vast amount of oil from around the world to the U.S, an excellent logistics provider must provide the smartest option for shipping this high-demand good.

Agricultural oils, like many other nonhazardous liquids, are currently transported in a number of ways. With ISO tank containers, the liquid is placed directly into large containers, but this method requires return loads, long-term leasing agreements, and costly cleanings to avoid cross-contamination. Intermediate bulk container (IBC) totes and drums, on the other hand, do not provide the best use of space.

When shipping agricultural oils, it is important to seek a logistics provider that offers flexitanks as an alternative. Shaped like a bag or bladder, a single flexitank safely holds between 4,210 and 6,315 gallons of liquid weighing up to 50,000 pounds and fits in a standard 20-foot ocean freight container.

Flexitanks are single-use to prevent cross-contamination and are disposable or recyclable at the destination, eliminating the need for return loads. Loading and unloading times are lower than those of IBC totes or drums. Shipping without packaging gives customers the option to package and distribute agricultural oils at a lower cost at the filling destination. Flexitanks can transport up to 31 percent more liquid per container than any other method, and, because they are single-use, they do not require potentially harmful cleaning techniques.

The flexitanks trend for foodstuffs is still building, and shows tremendous potential. Grand View Research shows that the demand for flexitanks in foodstuffs increased from 227,187 units in 2013 to 268,243 units in 2014, with an expected 1,055,270 units by 2022. As using flexitanks for foodstuffs becomes increasingly common, be sure to coordinate with your logistics provider and experience the benefits firsthand.

Jeff D. Plumley is responsible for the development of DHL Global Forwarding’s global liquid bulk logistics product. He is a 25 year veteran of the global logistics industry and a licensed U.S. customs house broker.