Global insight

Pharma handling failures get Emirates SkyCargo hot under the collar

Pharma handling failures get Emirates SkyCargo hot under the collar

GROUND handling failures across the global air cargo network have forced Dubai-based Emirates SkyCargo to insist on higher standards of reliability in the processing of highly vulnerable perishables shipments.

Climate-sensitive pharmaceuticals – including life-saving vaccines and serums – require temperature-controlled perfection during their journeys across the world.

Failure to adhere to strict, pre-specified temperature limits render such compromised shipments unusable so that they then have to be returned to their source and systematically destroyed.

Most of these costly failures occur on the ground rather than onboard aircraft, writes Nigel Tomkins.

Although the carrier has not revealed either the numbers of handling failures in its current pharma delivery system – or the worst offenders – it has instead attempted to put a positive spin on the problem by issuing a press release entitled ‘Emirates SkyCargo offers enhanced protection for pharmaceutical cargo with the launch of pharma corridors’.

How many customers have been re-funded for pharma handling failures?

Whilst the announcement reveals that SkyCargo has ‘stepped up its commitment to securely transporting temperature-sensitive shipments’ with the introduction of the pharma corridors – which it is hoped will offer additional protection across selected stations in its network – it does not disclose how many customers have been re-funded or received damages for failures over the years.

The freight carrier has stepped up its focus with ground handling partners and other stakeholders at multiple cities across its global network ‘in order to ensure that handling operations for pharmaceuticals at these stations are uniform and comply with Emirates SkyCargo’s stringent norms for pharma transport as well as with either EU Good Distribution Practices (GDP) or IATA Centre of Excellence for Independent Validators (CEIV) pharma guidelines,’ says the company statement.

Under the new regime the carrier hopes to be able to provide ‘a supplementary protection of product integrity’ during transport of temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals through these cities.

The introduction of the new corridors, with their focus on non-hub handling activities, will allow it to go ‘one step further’ in protecting the integrity of such shipments.

Nabil Sultan, the airline’s divisional senior vice-president of cargo, admits: “As a customer-focused organisation, we have been listening to feedback from stakeholders in the global pharmaceutical industry.

“We realised that it was essential to work with our partners on the ground at the various stations in order to ensure that pharmaceutical cargo travels under the best conditions not only through our state-of-the-art facilities in Dubai and when onboard our modern aircraft, but right from the point the cargo gets dropped off at the origin airport until it is collected at the destination airport.

“We are also actively exploring the roll-out of dedicated pharma flights across our network,” he adds.

The first 12 stations to participate in the pharma corridors scheme are spread across three continents and include Amsterdam, Brussels, Bengaluru, Cairo, Dublin, Dusseldorf, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Milan, Rome, Shanghai and Singapore.

The new development comes after a widespread scrutiny carried out by pharma specialists in the Emirates SkyCargo team who worked in conjunction with cargo service delivery teams and ground handlers locally at stations.

In addition to enhanced training, the team undertook a number of ‘engagement and qualification’ visits in order to prepare for the roll-out. Further cities are expected to be added over the course of 2018.

The air cargo carrier has invested in developing White Cover thermal blankets in addition to innovative containers such as the Emirates SkyCargo Cool Dolly or the White Container to guarantee that lifesaving medicines travelling through its network are not compromised.

Emirates SkyCargo has a fleet of more than 50 cool dollies dedicated to pharma. The carrier also works with leading specialist container rental services across the globe.

In 2016, Emirates SkyCargo’s operations at its hub in Dubai, including its dual cargo terminals at Dubai International Airport, Dubai World Central and the interconnecting trucking operations, were certified as compliant with EU GDP guidelines by Bureau Veritas, Germany.

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