British Standard BS 5609 is a specification for printed pressure-sensitive, adhesive-coated labels for marine use, including requirements for label base material. It sets out various durability criteria including adhesive performance, print permanence and abrasion resistance, stipulating minimum standards for labels to be used in "Marine Environments”. 

BS 5609 testing is a requirement for self-adhesive drum labels needing International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) certification. Testing includes a three month exposure of labelled test plates in salt water at mid-tide.

Three images of our marine immersion testing in progress, with colleagues leaning out of a boat placing test items into a rig floating in the ocean.

Why test labels to BS 5609?

  • Internationally-recognized standard covering suitability of goods-labelling for marine shipment
  • Widely referred to when specifying an extremely durable label
  • Compliance is a requirement for self-adhesive drum labels needing certification with:  
    • Merchant Shipping Regulations
    • International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG)
    • Globally Harmonized System of Classification (GHS) standards. 

What we can provide

Smithers offers a complete, independent BS 5609 testing service using specialist, purpose-built facilities. More importantly, our experts are here to guide you through the requirements and test results offering professional advice and recommendations.

Details on BS 5609 testing

BS 5609 comprises four parts. Sections 2 and 3 are key and detail the tests to be carried out on the base label material and printed labels respectively. Tests of the print method described in Section 3 can only be made on base labels that have already met the requirements of Section 2. Also, if a print method has been tested on Label A, it doesn't automatically follow that it will comply on Label B. For complete compliance it is necessary to validate specific combinations of ink and base label.
Section 2 tests
  • Marine exposure of labels (carried out at our test site on the south coast of England). 
  • Dimensional stability under artificial weathering 48 hour peel adhesion to aluminium plates 
  • Peel adhesion after temperature cycling: 7 days at 60°C and 2 hours at 0°C
  • Colour fastness: exposed to artificial salt spray and sunlight.
Section 3 tests
  • Print key effectiveness: resistance to print removal using adhesive tape
  • Abrasion resistance: legibility and contrast after rolling in a mixture of sand and artificial sea water
  • Permanence of print: colour fastness and residual contrast after exposure to artificial salt spray and sunlight.
Appendix K tests (for labels already compliant with Sections 2 and 3)
  • Peel adhesion on a specific substrate* after 7 days at 23°C and 50%rh and also 7 days immersion in saline solution.
  • Peel adhesion after temperature cycling: 7 days at 60°C and 2 hours at 0°C.

*Smithers uses sheets of a natural ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) finished with a 360 grit finish to characterise adhesion performance against a typical plastic chemical drum material.

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