Air Cargo Management

Developments in temperature-sensitive cargo

Transportation of temperature-sensitive cargo
photo_camera The healthcare freight market is worth around $2 billion

Transporting and handling temperature-sensitive cargo can be a challenge, but now, new technologies are ensuring sensitive freight will arrive in top condition.

Picture the scenario: Insulin must be transported to North America safely. Urgently needed vaccines must be flown to South America. Or a shipment of temperature- sensitive semiconductors from Hyderabad expected in Barcelona – all in day’s work for operators like Lufthansa Cargo.

Many of these operators are buying into newly developed solutions for the air shipment of temperature-sensitive cargo. DoKaSch Temperature Solutions in Germany for instance has seen a steady interest in its temperature-sensitive ULDs.

Andreas Seitz, Managing Director at DoKaSch
Seitz says the market for climate-controlled cargo solutions is growing

Andreas Seitz, Managing Director at DoKaSch, observes many reasons why the market for climate-controlled cargo solutions is growing: “The production of pharma goods like medicines and vaccines have become more globalised over the last years which is followed by a growing need for transportation of these temperature-sensitive goods.”

He says nearly all pharmaceuticals that are developed today, or will be in the near future, are biotech, so consequently, the number of temperature-sensitive medicines will likely grow. DoKaSch has developed what it calls the ‘Opticooler’, which provides transport conditions for shipments across continents and climate zones or during unexpected events, for goods that must be kept within a very strict temperature range.

Seitz explains: “It’s equipped with battery powered cooling compressors and heaters as well as a self-regulating temperature control, the internal temperatures consistently stay well within range at any point in the storage area.” He says temperatures between 2-8°C or 15-25°C for example can be maintained regardless of the ambient temperatures, that may vary between -30°C during a Canadian winter or +50°C during a Middle Eastern summer.

Interestingly, the equipment only needs one electrical outlet to fully charge the energy storage after a flight and to ensure that enough power is always available to deal with unexpected events. A full charge, from 50 per cent to 100per cent, can be achieved within approximately two hours, Seitz tells. Originally the Opticooler was developed for Lufthansa in 2004, but since 2014 the containers are available at many other airlines.

Temperature-sensitive cargo containers
Containers can be picked up from and dropped off at various locations globally

In fact, last year, DoKaSch signed master agreements with Saudia Cargo and Qatar Airways Cargo for the climate-controlled equipment. The Middle Eastern operators were seeking highly reliable packaging solutions to transport temperature-sensitive cargo, especially for pharmaceuticals that must be kept within strict temperature tolerances throughout the entire supply chain, regardless of the ambient conditions, which are a challenge for this region.

Seitz states the Opticooler is especially designed for extreme climatic conditions, such as the high temperatures common in Saudi Arabia and the surrounding regions. “We mainly export pharmaceuticals from the European Union and the United States into Asia and Africa through the Middle Eastern hubs. For this reason, master agreements with carriers like Saudia Cargo and Qatar Airways Cargo, it enables us to send out Opticoolers on many different routings for our customers.”

When in discussion about the upgrade of standard ULDs with temperature-sensitive technologies, Seitz, from his point of view, sees this option as neither economically wise nor qualitatively adequate. He stresses that an upgraded or retrofitted standard ULD will not be able to meet the special needs of temperature-sensitive freight and the strict regulation of the temperature deviation limits. “No, I don’t see any market for this approach,” he reckons.

As previously stated the most common temperature tolerance is 2-8C. Many sensitive materials for the healthcare market are designed to be transported in this temperature range. Too cold and the payload will freeze, too warm and it will spoil. “It’s critical that the temperature stays in the 2-8 range for as long as seven days, without having any temperature excursions,” says Dominic Hyde, Pelican BioThermal’s new vice president of Crēdo on Demand.


Dominic Hyde, vice president of Peli BioThermal
Dominic Hyde is the new Vice President for Peli BioThermal’s Credo on Demand

“When excursions do happen, they are typically due to human error. This might include not packing the shipper correctly, freezing the coolants or opening it for too long prior to removing the payload to a temperature-controlled storage area,” he suggests. Hyde acknowledges that the market for temperature sensitive packaging is huge, transporting fresh flowers, steaks, seafood, cosmetics, chocolate, wine, artwork and so on.

The market for transporting temperature-sensitive cargo for the healthcare market, such as pharmaceuticals, blood, tissue and organs, is a subsegment, currently valued at approximately $2 billion, and expected to grow to approximately $5 billion by 2026, according to figures from Peli BioThermal. In addressing the market Pelican is making significant headway with its Crēdo on Demand rental programme using temperature controlled passive pallet shippers.

There are standard daily and monthly rental rates and can be picked up from and dropped off at Pelican BioThermal locations worldwide. Other rental terms are available. Originally designed for the extreme conditions of the military battlefield, Hyde says the patented technology provides thermal protection for high value temperature-sensitive cargo.

“This patented technology provides secure, safe and reliable thermally protected transport of pharmaceuticals, tissues, biologics, diagnostics, vaccines, blood supplies, and more.”

For Crēdo on Demand, Hyde is confident that 2018 is going to be a formative year for the service business and the company is laying foundations for sustainable growth going forward. “It is always a challenge when you are in growth mode to maintain standards and continue to deliver the price, performance, quality and availability that the market requires.

“I believe Peli BioThermal will be the de facto provider of the advanced passive transportation solutions for not only the clinical market, where they are very strong today, but for commercial pharmaceutical shipments, the bulk shipments,” Hyde states. Elsewhere, Emirates SkyCargo – last year, rolled out a new white cover solution developed in collaboration with DuPont as part of its cool chain temperature solutions.

The new ‘White Cover Xtreme’ according to Emirates, offers enhanced protection for temperature-sensitive cargo in hot, cold and wet weather conditions. The new triple layered White Cover Xtreme acts as a shield reflecting solar heat when temperatures are high and as a barrier for conduction preventing heat from escaping when temperatures are low thereby helping maintain cargo internally at the right temperature.

In addition, the white cover is breathable and allows water vapour to escape preventing condensation from forming on the surface of cargo and affecting the integrity of the shipment. As Emirates states, it acts as a single solution that offers a high level of protection in harsh winter as well as summer weather conditions.

The new White Cover Xtreme aims help shield temperature sensitive shipments, including pharmaceuticals, which travel through extreme and variable weather conditions from origin to destination. Meanwhile, in the UK, Virgin Atlantic Cargo has become the first British airline to approve the use of CSafe’s new RAP container for temperature – sensitive life-enhancing healthcare products, the carrier said in a media statement.

Emirates temperature-sensitive cargo handling
The white cover acts as a shield reflecting solar heat

Following its approval by both the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the unit has been approved by Virgin Atlantic’s own operations specialists to be carried across the airline’s international network. The CSafe RAP is the only FAA and EASA approved active compressor-driven container permitted in both the upper deck and lower deck cargo sections of commercial aircraft.

Under the terms of its lease agreement with CSafe, Virgin is now accepting bookings for the new RAP container, providing shippers with another solution for large shipments of pharmaceutical and life science products. Virgin already offers its customers the opportunity to lease the CSafe RKN container as well as Envirotainer’s RKN t2, RAP t2, RKN e1 and RAP e2 units for temperature-controlled pharma products.

The CSafe RAP uses CSafe’s active Temperature Management System (TMS) which utilises compressor driven cooling technology and a radiant heating system (depending on the ambient temperature), in conjunction with CSafe’s innovative and proprietary ThermoCor vacuum insulation panel technology.

As the airline explains, this enables the unit to maintain a strict payload temperature setting throughout transportation, regardless of the actual ambient condition. With a maximum payload weight of 4,819kg, the CSafe RAP is designed to accept up to four US wooden pallets or as many as five Euro pallets. The airline says it can also be bulk loaded directly on the floor of the container to increase payload volume due to the unique design of the under-floor air recirculation system, and offers an extended battery run time of up to 100 hours for typical shipments.

The CSafe RAP has a temperature range that is user selectable from +4°C to +25°C, with operational capabilities achieving desired set-points even at extreme ambient temperatures (-30°C to +54°C). Darren Sherlock, manager – Products and Partnerships at Virgin Atlantic Cargo said the airline was delighted to be the first UK carrier to be able to offer the CSafe RAP to customers, extending the choice of temperature-controlled active and heating and cooling containers that Virgin supplies.

“With our pharma volumes growing by more than 20 per cent in 2017 and coming just weeks after the opening of our new pharma zone at London Heathrow, this latest enhancement to our service offering underlines our commitment to be a leading provider of pharma transportation by offering our customers the widest choice of solutions,” Sherlock stated.

The growth of Virgin Atlantic Cargo’s pharma volumes is supported by the reach of its global network to major pharma markets in the UK, Europe, the US, India and China.

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