Welcome to part 4 of Ready for a vaccine, an Aviation Business News web series that aims to find out whether the air cargo industry is really prepared for the handling, transportation and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.
A special report on Covid-19 vaccine distribution appears in the Winter 2020 issue of Airline Cargo Management. You can read the digital version of the magazine here.
This fourth instalment features Etihad Cargo’s global cool chain solutions manager Fabrice Panza. [The other instalments are available to read: part one features Pharma.Aero and IAG Cargo, part two features Peli BioThermal and part three feature Finnair Cargo.]
What is Etihad Cargo doing to prepare for distributing potential Covid-19 vaccines – what are the main tasks to achieve in order to ramp up operations for it? Does it require the introduction of additional services or infrastructure?
Fabrice Panza: We have spent a lot of time preparing for the upcoming surge vaccine distribution is going to place on global logistics handling and requirement. This includes gathering information, sharing what we know and advising manufacturers, governments, forwarders and partners across the international supply chain.
The aim is to ensure each part of the global response can scale operations to meet requirements. Looking at what is needed, the volumes are huge and we don’t have a clear timeline for the moment. Temperature and packaging are other very important and possibly high impacting elements.
We created a dedicated Covid-19 workforce specifically for this reason; to consider each of these elements and imagine scenarios from an operational point of view. We are currently creating a full plan for different destinations. We are also a founding member of the Hope Consortium, launched by the Department of Health Abu Dhabi to provide a complete supply chain solution and position Abu Dhabi as a central global logistics hub to transport and store the vaccine.
[In terms of communication], we have a scenario where we co-operate closely within the current organisation and we have a scenario where, depending on the demand, we are building ad-hoc responses. We work closely with all stakeholders to share this information and make sure they are aware of what we can do – and in some cases what we can’t do – and what developments would be required.
Another key element is the storage temperature – how will this challenge be overcome?
From an equipment point of view we are partnering with the best worldwide active container suppliers. We recently announced a partnership with CSafe Global – we want to ensure that we have enough capacity on the equipment side.
How does not knowing exact timings play into the difficulty of preparing?
We want to be adaptive. We need one or two weeks’ notice to be sure that we can have the right aircraft in place and that we have the right optimisations. It’s part of our job to adapt to these elements.
We know that there won’t all of a sudden be one billion doses available, so we know that there will be an effect during at least one year.
Imagine that in one month you have 100 million doses available, then you would sequence the shipments. That’s why preparation is key. That’s why we are talking to the industry and telling them the way to optimise a shipment from an airline point of view.
Do you believe the air cargo industry as a whole has done enough to prepare? Has there been increased collaboration?
Specifically for pharmaceuticals, the industry has always been working closely together but on this stage and scale, it goes a bit further. I see more government bodies participating actively which is very important.
We are preparing a risk assessment of our network and doing that is something we are sharing and learning from each other thanks to associations’ roles. We are part of Pharma.Aero and we are positioning ourselves as one of the participants of the full cool chain logistics by sharing experience and information with all stakeholders – so everyone is aware of what we can do and what are our limitations. It is important to have transparency.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is also a core organisation and we are part of a working group defining the regulations and ensuring from a process point of view that we are fully compliant.
There will be many parties involved in the process. What are your biggest concerns?
What we do as an airline is the transportation phase, from the airport to the airport. A lot is happening before, and a lot is happening after. Our hope is to mitigate the effect before and after by providing the best equipment solution and controlling the process. That’s why the CEIV certification is very important for us because it’s evidence of the mastery of the process of moving these sensitive shipments.
The risk points are very simple – it is every time you have a break in the chain. But for these types of products they have been identified a long time ago and there are solutions to mitigate that risk, in containers and packaging.
The above video illustrates a day in the life of a Crēdo Cube, a passive and reusable shipper from Peli BioThermal qualified to hold chilled medical materials at a safe temperature for up to five days