EMIRATES SkyCargo which by April had airfreighted more than 50 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, is to adopt cold chain transportation specialist Environtainer’s new Releye Resource Location Protocol (RLP) containers, writes Thelma Etim.

Equipped with real-time monitoring for the shipping of temperature-sensitive commodities, each standard LD-11 unit employs unique airflow technology for maximum temperature stability in the cargo bay, the containerisation specialist insists.

“Each RLP unit is the equivalent of three Euro pallets, or two US pallets, and fills a strategic gap allowing for increased efficiency by mixing and matching [different] sizes based on shipment volumes,” a statement points out.

Releye utilises re-chargeable batteries for its electric heating and compressor cooling system – a power solution which can operate for more than 170 hours on a single charge, it adds.

Don Harrison, head of global key airline accounts at Envirotainer, proudly notes that Emirates, as one of the leading global air cargo carriers, is the most recent airline to approve the Releye® RLP system. “With the new Releye® RLP, Emirates can offer their customers the best active, fully connected, solution on their fleet of over 250 widebody airplanes,” he says.

Since the end of last year, the point when the very first Coronavirus vaccines were being authorised by international medical approval authorities, the Dubai-based carrier has transported more than 220 tonnes of the life-saving treatments on more than 150 flights from different manufacturing locations to 50 destinations across its network.

Last October, the airfreight division of Emirates Group announced it had created one of the world’s first dedicated airside facilities for handling the life-saving vaccines with the re-opening of its old SkyCentral DWC cargo terminal at Dubai South, a facility which offers a 4,000-sq m temperature-controlled dedicated pharma storage area and which, at any time, can hold up to 10 million vaccine vials within a two-to-eight degrees Celsius temperature range.

The carrier also helped found the Dubai Vaccines Logistics Alliance (DVLA) health consortium which supports COVAX – the global initiative co-led by the World Health Organisation (WHO) – and which was established to promote rapid and equitable access to vaccines for every country of the world, regardless of income levels.

At the same time, SkyCargo is one of 16 leading international airlines to have signed up to UNICEF’s Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative which supports equal access to and prioritises the shipments of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as essential medicines, medical devices and other critical supplies around the world.

Commenting on the decision to use the Envirotainers containers, Henrik Ambak, Emirates’ worldwide senior vice-president of cargo operations, insists that Emirates SkyCargo has been leading the airfreight industry in the transportation of temperature-sensitive goods. “Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have continued to fly hundreds of tonnes of pharmaceuticals, vaccines and other critical shipments every day.

“As a customer-focused organisation, we are always looking to offer the best in market equipment to complement our fit-for-purpose GDP-certified infrastructure for the transportation of critical temperature-sensitive commodities.

“Integrating the Envirotainer Releye® RLP container into our portfolio allows us to expand the range of solutions we can offer to our customers and set a new standard for secure cold-chain transport at a time when the biopharma industry is looking for ground breaking solutions,” Ambak explains.

In a dramatic role reversal, SkyCargo’s business produced 60 per cent of the airline’s total transport revenue in the last financial year. The airfreight division of Emirates Group, which operates 11 B777Fs, reported a revenue of US$4.7billion, an increase of 53 per cent in the period. With the pandemic decimating the passenger aircraft belly cargo industry across the world, Emirates’ yield per freight-tonne-kilometres (FTKMs) increased strongly by 88 per cent whilst, at the same time, tonnage carried decreased by 22 per cent to 1.9 million tonnes.

Overall, due to the pandemic, Emirates Group suffered its first non-profitable year in more than three decades. The group recorded an annual loss of US$6billion for the financial year ended 31 March 2021 in comparison with a $456million profit for the previous year period.

The group’s revenue turnover reached $9.7billion in its last financial year, a decline of 66 per cent over the previous results. The company’s $5.4billion cash balance is down 23 per cent largely due to “weak demand caused by the various pandemic-related business and travel restrictions across all core business divisions and markets,” the airline group explains.

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