With two hubs in Dubai, the trucks running between Dubai International and Dubai World Central provide a conveyor belt for pharma cargo according to Julian Sutch.
The manager of global pharma sales for Emirates SkyCargo tells Air Cargo Week that, with streamlined processes, Emirates SkyCargo can offer transit times of just 4.5 hours between the arrival of goods on a freighter to their departure from a passenger aircraft and vice versa.
Emirates SkyCargo has over 8,000 sq m of pharma handling space across its two cargo terminals in Dubai with a trucking service running 24/7 between Emirates SkyCentral DXB at Dubai International and Emirates SkyCentral DWC.
With a fleet of 49 trucks and 12 dedicated reefer trucks, the cool chain is not broken when the cargo is being transferred between passenger and freighter aircraft.
Describing the trucking service, Sutch says: “The trucks almost act as a seamless conveyer belt in transporting pharma cargo between the two airports.”
In 2018, Emirates SkyCargo transported over 73,000 tonnes of pharma across its network, a growth of almost 14% and Sutch expects strong double-digit growth to continue.
The type of pharma products is very varied, from generics and vaccines to oncology medication.
Sutch says: “We have seen that over the years, the complexity and the sophistication of the pharmaceutical cargo that we transport has actually increased. We transport an important volume of biologics- which are drugs produced from living organisms or which contain components from living organisms.”
To provide customers with flexibility, Emirates SkyCargo created its Emirates Pharma products. The base Emirates Pharma is for products with a high tolerance for temperature fluctuations and using passive packaging solutions.
Emirates Pharma Plus is suited for high value pharmaceuticals with a thermal cover that can withstand minor temperature fluctuations. Emirates Pharma Active is for high value pharmaceuticals that are extremely temperature and time sensitive and require active containers.
Sutch says: “Even before we developed and rolled out our Emirates Pharma product, we undertook extensive consultations with our customers to find out exactly what was required from a specialised product.”
Ensuring produce does not get damaged while on the ground is very important, especially in somewhere as hot as Dubai. Emirates SkyCargo has a range of specially designed thermal covers developed with DuPont called White Covers offering differing levels of protection from heat, cold, dust and humidity.
A fleet of 60 cool dollies minimise thermal excursions on the ramp and can maintain temperatures as low as -20C. The in-house ‘White Container’ is coated with insulators to counteract high external temperatures.
Emirates SkyCargo also offers containers from third party providers including Envirotainer, va-Q-tec and SkyCell.
Emirates SkyCargo is also working with ground handlers and local partners to ensure pharma products are being handled properly wherever they are in the world.
Sutch says: “So we’re not only concerned with protecting the pharma cargo at Dubai, but making sure that we are enhancing protection for cargo from origin to destination.”
In the future, Sutch sees pharma volumes being transported by air growing, and the regulations will continue to evolve to protect product integrity of cargo, as well as preventing counterfeiting.
He says: “As the complexity and sophistication of the pharmaceutical cargo being transported increases, air cargo carriers will also have to up their capabilities and invest in ‘fit for purpose’ infrastructure to meet customer requirements.”