Depressurization of a pressure vessel, containing a liquid or a gas is limited by the maximum possible mass flux. This flux occurs at a certain drop in pressure. The ratio of ambient pressure to that inside the vessel must be less than a certain critical value. The critical pressure ratio depends on the thermodynamic state of the fluid inside the vessel and on the geometry of the outlet cross-section. The outlet can be a pipeline, a safety valve or a rupture disk. The results of known theoretical and experimental work are presented. In previous experiments, saturated liquids, two-phase flows or pure vapours were examined. In order to predict the critical pressure ratio, certain assumptions are necessary. These are derived for three well-defined cross-sections of the vessel outlet.