GLOBAL logistics company DB Schenker has signed a milestone agreement to lease hybrid air cargo unit load devices (ULDs) from Switzerland-based cool containers specialist SkyCell. The arrangement augments its ability to safely transport vaccines worldwide, writes Thelma Etim.

The agreement will not only enhance DB Schenker’s overall vaccines logistics capabilities, but will specifically also bring added flexibility to DB Schenkerlife+, its dedicated cold-chain healthcare premium service which focuses on the handling of a variety of delicate medical goods, including technological implements, biopharma shipments and animal health products, along with other pharma items.

Thorsten Meincke, global board member for air and ocean freight at DB Schenker, observes: “With this agreement, we are upgrading our existing broad portfolio of healthcare-related logistics services with even more capability for our customers for the widespread roll-out of global vaccinations. With SkyCell, we have found an excellent partner in this endeavour to provide high quality on a global level.”

SkyCell, which achieved a 60 per cent year-on-year business growth during 2020, manufactures and services innovative temperature-controlled air cargo containers for both freighter and belly-hold air transportation that, without the need for electricity for a specified number of days, can maintain internal temperature ranges as low as -80°C to -15°C for a minimum of five days, and +2°C to +8°C and +15°C to +25°C for up to eight.

Depending on the size of the lightweight shock-absorbent container, each can carry between 30,000 and 60,000 vials. They can also be re-used and are equipped with a double door to prevent damage caused by humidity, outlines a statement.

Richard Ettl, chief executive of SkyCell, insists: “When shipping vital pharmaceuticals products, there is no room for error, and our innovative containers will help ensure these vaccines arrive in a safe, secure and sustainable manner. We are excited to be working with DB Schenker to help enhance vaccine logistics and the supply chain in this fight against COVID-19.”

According to BBC News Online, more than one billion doses of Coronavirus vaccines have now been administered in 179 countries, although some nations are progressing faster than others. China and the United States have administered the highest numbers of doses, with 255 million and 237 million respectively.

India, which ranks third, with nearly 150 million doses, is now in the grip of a major health crisis with 19,925, 517 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 218,959 deaths from the virus, according to data from John Hopkins University and Medicine.

Whereas mass immunisation programmes are well under way across Europe and the Americas, some African companies have the lowest number of vaccinations administered. 18 million vaccine doses have so far been delivered to 41 African countries, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Under the COVAX initiative – the global effort aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines co-led by the WHO – 145 countries will, on average, receive doses to immunise about three per cent of their populations, commencing in the first half of this year.

Veronique Dameme, head of global vertical market healthcare at DB Schenker, points out: “Managing supply chains and transporting critical pharmaceuticals shipments has never been more important. Using SkyCell’s packaging solution will not only provide ease of use for our employees, but a best-in-class solution for the safe transportation required by pharmaceuticals.”

Nico Ros, chief technology officer (CTO) and co-founder at SkyCell, stresses that the security of medicines plays a key role in the pharma industry. “And we are glad to have with DB Schenker a partner that also invests in monitoring technology and infrastructure.”

Furthermore, SkyCell containers have been equipped with IoT (Internet of Things) sensors since 2012 and, with nearly one billion pieces of shipments data collected to date, it can now simulate future shipment (experiences) to minimise risks.

This latest contract for the containers specialist comes after it entered into a partnership with Virgin Atlantic Cargo last month and, in January, Korean Air Cargo signed an agreement with SkyCell to lease its hybrid ULDs. That announcement followed on from the company establishing its own dedicated service centre in Seoul and appointing Charlie Cho as its new business development director for the South Korean region.

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