Airfreight voted as the preferred mode of transport for temperature sensitive medicines

Despite the rising popularity of ocean freight,  airfreight emerges as the mode of transport of choice for temperature controlled medicines.

In our most recent research, almost 55% of the temperature controlled logistics professionals surveyed said that airfreight was their preferred mode of transit for climate sensitive medicines.

The research, which gathers insights from 150 pharma logistics professionals, saw 30% of respondents select refrigerated trucks and 13% depict ocean freight as their mode of choice.

In the report respondents advance to detail key strategies for tackling time on the tarmac excursions and key solutions to avoid breaks in the cold chain when moving medicines.


Ocean freight Vs Airfreight

Over the years, the ocean freight market has been fraught with capacity and wildly fluctuating rates. By 2016, the market underwent a series of consolidations including a bankruptcy of a major container carrier. In addition, rates fell to historic lows but began to recover towards the end of the year.

Meanwhile, air freight rates remain high and capacity is tightening. Concerns in the way some air freight providers have handled temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals still remain fresh with shippers as they look to shift some, if not all, pharmaceuticals to other modes of transport.



However, more pharmaceutical shippers are looking to ocean freight as an alternative to the more expensive air freight. Indeed, ocean freight data provider, Datamyne, indicates in terms of TEUs, US imported refrigerated pharmaceutical goods within harmonized code 30, increased 18.1% from 2015 to 2016.

Not surprising, the major port of entry for both 2015 and 2016 is the New York/New Jersey port with over 30% of import TEUs. It is not surprising in that the majority of pharmaceutical companies are located closer to this port. Perhaps slightly more surprising is that the Port of Charleston is the second largest import port for refrigerated pharmaceuticals with a little more than 20% of total TEUs.

Drawbacks to Ocean Freight

Before we all move our temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals to ocean freight, there are some drawbacks to consider. According to Pharmaceutical Outsourcing, temperature controlled containers are of variable quality while the availability of good equipment can be poor in some regions. Transit times are also slow which can increase inventory costs and introduce supply chain problems.

As mentioned by Cathy Robertson, shippers will continue to evaluate alternative modes of transportation to ensure high-valued, temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals are delivered to the final destination without being compromised. Air, Ocean, road and rail all have their benefits as well as drawbacks. Shippers will not only need to do their homework to determine the best mix of transportation, but also work with their supply chain partners to communicate needs and set expectations.