About a year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic had a massive impact on global trade and magnified the existing logistics challenges worldwide. This is because, as governments mandated for non-essential citizens to stay at home as a way to curb the virus from spreading, they turn to e-commerce to cope with being quarantined at home. As a result, the rapid growth of e-commerce put another strain on already strained freight networks.
Despite the challenges from last year still linger, 2021 seems to be the year where everything will come to an end. The logistics industry is strongly supporting the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines globally.
“Safely delivering COVID-19 vaccines will be the mission of the century for the global air cargo industry, but it won’t happen without careful advance planning,” says chief executive Alexandre de Juniac of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
According to the International Air Transport Association, a first vaccination of the entire world’s population will require approximately 8 billion doses. Qualified refrigerated facilities in a worldwide network of locations are now also a requirement. The vaccines should be managed and shipped at standard conditions and kept safe from stealing and tampering.
Air Cargo Around the World Working Together
Special teams have been formed to face the challenges. For instance, the Singapore government has set the Changi Ready Taskforce at its airport. Given the task to transport and distribute the COVID-19 vaccines, the task force is led together by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and Changi Airport Group.
The special task force, which includes 18 members from the Changi air cargo community, is a public-private partnership involving government agencies, cargo handlers, airlines, and freight forwarders.
On one of its Boeing 747-400 freighters, Singapore Airlines (SIA) shipped the first shipment of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to CAG in December. It was also the first shipment of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to arrive in Asia.
Based in Amsterdam, Air France KLM Martinair Cargo has set up a new climate cool room at its Schiphol Pharma Hub. The room has a temperature range of +2 to +8 degrees Celsius and the capacity needed to handle COVID-19 vaccines.
In the Netherlands and the United States, UPS is constructing “freezer farms” with banks of -80°C freezers. The farms will have about 600 freezers, each holding 48,000 vaccine vials.
In Germany, the United Kingdom, and South America, additional freezer capacity will be installed. DHL Global Forwarding has opened a 20,000-square-foot facility in Indianapolis dedicated to life sciences and healthcare logistics in the United States. Temperature-controlled storage is available at 15°C to 25°C, two °C to 8°C, and -20°C, and the facility is located within a Free Trade Zone, allowing international cross shipping.
Envirotainer, a Swedish company specialising in secure cold chain solutions for pharmaceutical air transport, plans to increase its network capacity for RAP e2 containers in the United States by 57 per cent.
The company will increase its capacity to securely ship both COVID-19 vaccines and other medicines that require high-quality temperature-controlled solutions with four new RAP e2 stations in New York, Miami, Philadelphia, and Seattle. It also added Beijing to its network of stations to support China’s rapidly expanding pharmaceutical export market.
SkyCell, based in Switzerland, is attempting to address the pandemic’s challenges with an innovative container. The hybrid solution consists of two parts: monitoring and protection. Monitoring provides real-time insight into the payload condition, while protection prevents temperature excursions from occurring in the first place (the passive solution).