Creating healthy trade lanes for pharma transport

Pharma.Aero seeks to achieve a reliable end-to-end air transport for pharmaceutical cargo, develop pharmaceutical trade lanes, implement best practices and share market knowledge. The initiative by Brussels and Miami airports has already attracted huge interest from air cargo industry.

Surya Kannoth & Reji John

Pharma logistical market is growing tremendously but air cargo is losing market share to other modes of transportation. This is largely because of poor or lack of standards and regulations in the transport of pharmaceutical products. The air cargo industry has to have a global standard when it comes to moving pharma products by air. This will ensure that the integrity of pharmaceutical products is maintained end to end. It is here that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) began to set standards for pharma air transport and created the Center of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics or CEIV Pharma.

While air cargo stakeholders began to get themselves certified under this programme independently, there was no community approach, which was essential to enhance the value proposition of pharmaceutical transport by air. Brussels Airport (BRU) set the first example of rolling out a community approach under the CEIV programme. This was followed by Miami International Airport (MIA). Singapore Changi Airport and Sharjah International Airport are the other two airports that follow the IATA CEIV programme.

However, it was Brussels and Miami airports that led the initiative to launch Pharma.Aero, a global community of IATA CEIV certified air cargo stakeholders focused on improving pharma handling and quality in the air cargo industry worldwide.

Steven Polmans, Head of Cargo, Brussels Airport Company, calls it a “big step”. “To bring something on global level is not very easy. It was driven by shippers. We build up a tremendous relationship with the shippers in the last four years. They were looking for somebody to lead this initiative,” says Polmans after the launch of Pharma.Aero during TIACA’s Air Cargo Forum in Paris recently.

Pharma.Aero will be content focused, developing solutions and creating transparency in close co-operation with the pharma industry.

“Pharma.Aero will focus on pharmaceutical shippers and all industry stakeholders who embrace the IATA CEIV programme. Members of the organisation will foster route certification/development of pharmaceutical trade lanes, implementation of best practices and sharing of market knowledge and expertise,” adds Nathan De Valck, Chairman of Pharma.Aero.

While BRU and MIA led the foundation of Pharma.Aero, other stakeholders of the air cargo supply chain soon joined the initiative to give it global identity. Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) is the first airport in Asia to join Pharma.Aero as a strategic member. Sharjah International Airport (SHJ) became the first airport in the Middle East to join the initiative. Other members include Brussels Airlines, Singapore Airlines, and Brinks Life Sciences.

Pharma.Aero welcomes airport communities, airline carriers, logistics companies, and other pharmaceutical stakeholders including shippers to become members.

Donald D’Souza, Director, Commercial, Sharjah Airport Authority, says it is important for Sharjah Airport to be an “important cog in the wheel that we do our bit to the best of our ability”. “And we hope that what we consider as a special something that we have done, will one day, be the norm for pharmaceutical transportation and all of pharma will move through such control and compliances to ensure absolute safety for each and every human being,” adds D’Souza.

Dimitrios Jimmy Nares, Section Chief, Aviation Marketing, Miami-Dade Aviation Department, recollects how Miami Airport saw the potential of pharma transport and the importance of being part of this global programme. “Pharma.Aero is the step two of our strategy. First began about a year and half ago when we realised that there is a business opportunity with the pharma transport industry. We noticed that the value of pharmaceutical going through our airport was increasing dramatically. Between 2010 and 2015 there was an increase by 62 percent. We took a community approach to growing our local cargo community to prepare for being able to handle more pharmaceutical products properly. We realized that the best way to do that was to get our local cargo community engaged in the IATA CEIV programme. And the next step was Pharma.Aero. This is about how we can leverage the expertise that we have. And that is what we are beginning to do.”

Polmans argues that the launch of this initiative was to certain extent forced by the demand of the pharma shippers. There was an increasing gap between what the shippers expected and what they finally got. Shippers were looking for something at a global level with a common standard. “With this initiative we are able to reduce this gap and finally match up completely with shipper’s expectation,” Polmans adds.

Certainly pulling everyone together for a global programme is not an easy task. But every member in the Pharma.Aero was moved by the common goal of reaching the pharma cargo to its end customers in the way it supposed to be.

“Within the group, there is a common understanding that there are projects that need to be enhanced for which we need to work together, enhancing the existing CEIV Pharma regulations. On our part, we will enhance our product offering to the client going all the way to door-to-door service delivery in a compliant manner,” explains Gonzalo Jacob, Head of Cargo, Sharjah Aviation Services.