How Etihad Cargo’s new end-to-end solution is strengthening pharmaceutical shipments

The UAE flag carrier’s specialized product helps pharma companies deliver the Covid-19 vaccine and other pharmaceutical products swiftly and safely to patients in need

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The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted many pharma and healthcare companies to reassess their transportation services to ensure specific requirements for shipping high volumes of in-demand products can be met in short time scales.

Pharma Logistics IQ sat down with Fabrice Panza, Manager Global Cool Chain Solutions at Etihad Airways, to discuss how its core premium product, PharmaLife, can be used on a global scale to transport pharmaceuticals in the quickest possible time while adhering to the highest compliance guidelines. Panza also explains how to ensure the right station capabilities are in place for temperature-controlled storage once the Covid-19 vaccine has been rolled out to market.

Pharma Logistics IQ: What are the prominent challenges Etihad Cargo is seeing in the supply chain industry?

Fabrice Panza: The most prominent challenge happening in the supply chain right now is in the logistics space and the shipping temperature requirements of Covid-19 vaccine types. For the first time, we are dealing with products that need to be shipped at around minus-70 degrees Celsius, as opposed to the standard shipping vaccine temperatures of between two and eight degrees Celsius.

We are also seeing more variety in the types of products being shipped in addition to the current standards and set of equipment requirement, you now have to put different measures and responses in places for the different products in your pipeline. Using PharmaLife, Etihad Cargo’s specialized pharma and healthcare product which replaces the carrier’s TempCheck product, we are able to provide the pharma industry with information on how to successfully transport products while maintaining integrity. For example, we can advise our customers on how many containers one aircraft or station can handle, as well as help you map out a clear vision to understand our main capabilities. Once issues like this have been addressed, you can begin to answer specific questions on how to ship products at minus-70 degrees Celsius, or other ranges.

Pharma Logistics IQ: What advice can you give to companies who are starting to prepare shipping the Covid-19 vaccine and other large volumes of vaccines around the world?

FP: I believe now is the time to work together more than ever before to support transporting the Covid-19 vaccine around the world. At Etihad Cargo, we are proud to be part of the Hope Consortium, which represents a complete supply chain solution to address vaccine transport, demand planning, sourcing, training, digital technology infrastructure and facilitate vaccine availability across the world. We are currently working with the Abu Dhabi Department of Health to transport the Covid-19 vaccine around the world through our hub.

In addition, we created a dedicated Covid-19 workforce internally to form new responses through scenario planning, which has helped us adapt to the needs of our customers and the industry. This is the time to start relying even more than we used to do on partnerships and we are working closely with government bodies, ground handling agents, forwarders and associations all around the world to make sure the shipment process is as smooth as possible from origin to destination. This requires collaboration with every stakeholder in the supply chain as it is about getting a contingency plan in place so you can stay ahead of disruption and maintain product integrity.

We also partner directly with the architects of shipping container solutions, like Envirotainer, CSafe, Dokasch, Va-Q-Tec and SkyCell who recently came up with an innovative deep-frozen solution to house drugs at minus-70 degrees Celsius. When you begin to deep dive into these solutions, the question becomes, what type of coolant is being used in these types of containers? If it is dry ice, for example, it can be very difficult and dangerous to handle because of its limitations, so we decided to publish information on which aircraft types are suitable for transporting dry ice material, enabling the industry to better anticipate and prepare to implement this type of packaging within their supply chain.

From a shipment point of view, we have also integrated a dedicated charter desk into our shipping process. If you have very large shipments, sometimes you can be dealing with 6 million, 50 or 100 million doses in one request. Therefore, understanding what your packaging list will look like is very important to us, so we can optimize the shipping space to the best of our ability. Whether you are using an active or hybrid container or a shipper pallet, we will proceed with what is call palletization so we can make sure the right space is available within our costs. To do this we operate full freighters and “mini freighters” to utilize the full capacity of the passenger cars and adapt our aircraft to the required route. All of these elements together means we are able to efficiently respond to our customers, from station capabilities to aircraft capability and equipment.

Pharma Logistics IQ: How can companies foster the correct information flows to assess the capabilities Etihad Cargo is offering?

FP: This goes back to partnerships again. We have partnered with Validaide, a platform which spans our network station capabilities and responds to all types of questions, meaning we can accurately plan shipments for our customers. Questions they can ask include whether certification place for a specific station, whether that station is up to date from a quality point of view, or whether a cooler is available and in what size.

With the Validaide tool, our customers can access very precise and detailed information directly through the web. Through the click of a button, we can share any station capabilities with our customers, enabling them to work on lane risk assessments and understand the risk they are taking ahead of shipping their products.

Our mission at Etihad Cargo is to be transparent in what we are doing and what we are capable of doing. We also participate in different associations such as the International Air Transport Association so that we can learn and share best practices and work on the best equipment solutions and process with our customers.

Pharma Logistics IQ: In your opinion, what are the next steps for the pharma industry to achieve an efficient end-to-end cool chain and how does PharmaLife play a part in this?

FP: We have designed PharmaLife for the Covid-19 vaccines, but the design can be used for any healthcare product. The pharma industry does not stop at the Covid-19 vaccine, as we are still shipping different products such as insulin, the flu vaccine and plasma. By using PharmaLife we can transport pharmaceuticals in the quickest possible time, while adhering to the highest compliance guidelines.

Our intention is to keep expanding our pharma trade lanes, which requires ongoing collaboration with industry partners. By working with equipment suppliers, general handling agents and associations, we can share knowledge and build trust across the industry, which will result in the highest quality industry standard for sustainable quality that our customers deserve.

A core part of this is communicating directly with all stakeholders involved so that we are all on the same level of understanding and capability. The Covid-19 vaccine program we have put in place is going to raise up the quality level of the industry and build momentum in developing new ideas or new ways of shipping to ease future disruptions.

Discover the PharmaLife service to achieve greater flexibility in your end-to-end supply chain and enhance your capabilities at origin stations based on pharma trade lanes and specific requests.

To find out more about the PharmaLife service, enquire now.