You don’t want to be the weakest link

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Nathan De Valck, cargo business and product development manager at Brussels Airport Company

The cool chain at an airport is only as strong as the weakest link so it is essential that all operators meet the same minimum standards, according to Nathan De Valck.

The cargo business and product development manager at Brussels Airport Company tells Air Cargo Week that there were a lot of advantages for the cargo community to work together, rather than trying to make improvements in isolation.

Brussels Airport was the first airport where stakeholders received IATA CEIV Pharma certification.

The Belgian airport was also a founding member of Pharma.Aero, a platform for pharma shippers, CEIV certified cargo communities, airport operators and other cargo stakeholders to work together and share knowledge and best practices.

With more than 14% of European pharma exports coming from Belgium, reliable airfreight is vital as it is the standard mode of transport.

When Brussels Airport spoke to shippers to understand their requirements, it was clear that air cargo was not meeting their expectations.

De Valck says: “At all airports a lot of temperature excursions occurred, which lead us to the strategic conclusion that we needed to align and standardise the pharma handling processes at our airport in order to meet the shippers’ expectations.”

It made sense to ensure that all operators in the cool chain met the same quality standards, benefitting from a lower risk profile and better service.

Stakeholder collaboration also provides the cost benefit of pooling audit and training resources for the CEIV certification programme. Not only that, the stakeholders can share best practices and adapt their processes.

Being the pilot airport for the community approach was beneficial for Brussels, with De Valck saying: “Being the pilot airport allowed us to work pro-actively with IATA and have an impact on the community certification methodology and co-create the standard. This was a clear win-win situation.”

Before undergoing the pilot, Brussels Airport had already implemented a local pilot checklist that was developed with the local pharma shippers, so it had a good idea of what to expect.

De Valck says: “In that respect it was probably IATA that went through a very useful learning curve, which gave a lot of maturity to the CEIV standard.”

He says that getting the CEIV certificate is just the starting point, and it should be seen as a quality management and training tool to raise the bar.

De Valck says: “Brussels Airport has installed a quality monitoring dashboard in collaboration with all the CEIV stakeholders. This dashboard is used as a tool for continuous improvement.”

Measures taken by Brussels Airport have been well received by the pharma shippers.

De Valck says: “They welcomed our transparent collaborative approach and the vision to be recognised as the preferred European pharma gateway.”