Major developments at Vienna International Airport are designed to ensure the Austrian capital’s hub is ideally placed to deliver optimum transit of valuable cargo, especially time and temperature sensitive shipments.

    It’s taken three years for Vienna International Airport (VIE) to deliver its ambition to create the fastest, temperature-secure transit hub in Eastern, Central and Southeast Europe.

    Vienna Airport believes its new Pharma Handling Centre (VPHC), which opened in December, will help position it as the number one gateway in the region. Set alongside other major new developments on the cargo handling side, the development marks a step change in the airport’s capabilities.

    Volga Dnepr

    “At the heart of the VPHC is a perfect temperature-controlled process area, from check-in to aircraft loading,” says Sabine Petera, director cargo services. “This establishes an uninterrupted cool chain, quick and GDP-compliant handling processes, and short turnaround times between air and road transport.

    “By its very nature, the pharmaceutical industry requires an exclusive operation process, storage area and high reliability,” she says.

    The VPHC came into operation following a three-year build and replaced separate temperature-controlled rooms for perishable goods previously housed in the airport’s general warehouse and also used for the storage of pharmaceuticals.

    The advent of the dedicated pharma facility gives Vienna a clear edge against competitor airports, as Petera stresses: “The VPHC is a pioneer in the pharma-handling field in Central and Eastern Europe, which will help us as we are trying to carve our way to the top.”

    She says it is also a valuable asset in the context of what is currently, in broader terms, a slightly sluggish cargo market. “The overall market demand this year is expected to be a little slow according to market specialists, whereas the demand for special cargo, such as pharma shipment has been steadily increasing,” explains Petera.

    DHL campus at Vienna International Airport
    DHL campus at VIE

    “Vienna Airport specialises in a niche with ‘promising growth perspectives’, with demand from the pharmaceutical sector in Austria and neighbouring countries having strongly increased in recent years.”

    Indeed, according to the Austrian Statistical Office, the country’s pharmaceutical sector alone is responsible for around €9.6 billion annual added value, or about 2.8 per cent of the nation’s GDP.

    The VPHC’s statistics

    The VPHC’s vital statistics are impressive – among Europe’s largest dedicated pharma hubs, its state- of-the-art and GDP-compliant facilities include a Controlled Room Temperature (CRT) area of about 1,600 square metres and all processes are guaranteed in the precise temperature-controlled range of 15°-25°C.

    Inside the CRT area, there is a separate 2-8°C cold room (02°-08°), with 150 square metres for the storage, build-up and break-down of shipments. Its six truck docks are equipped with a special blocking cushion to avoid any temperature deviations, while the VPHC also provides a temperature monitoring system as well as full CCTV coverage.

    The facility provides a direct connection between landside and airside areas and hence an average tarmac transportation time of just five to ten minutes from the VPHC to the aircraft.

    In addition, the airport’s Cool Trailer prevents temperature deviations during tarmac transportation to guarantee the seamless cool chain process of the VPHC. Its temperature can be set from -20°C to +29°C and all types of aircraft containers and pallets, up to a maximum height of two metres can be loaded.

    The trailer takes the cargo directly from the VPHC to aircraft and containers, or ULDs (unit load device) so that they have minimal exposure time – no more than one minute on the ramp.

    Petera summarises the VHPC’s contribution to the airport’s business as three clear USPs, or unique selling points. “Vienna is the number one gateway to southeast and eastern Europe, with 15 countries within a day’s drive. This geographical advantage reduces transit time and thus minimises the risk of temperature excursions.

    Vienna International Airport (VIE)
    VIE is a major hub for several airlines including flag carrier Austrian

    “As the only full handling provider at VIE, we offer the entire range of services, from shipment acceptance, build-up, and documentation, to ramp transportation and loading onto the aircraft. VPHC Handling Services is a responsible end-to-end handling partner for the customer with a single communications channel and no other interfaces.

    “Finally, the nature of the pharmaceutical industry is such that it requires an exclusive operation process, storage areas and high reliability. In the VPHC we offer pharma-dedicated staff and high-quality service.”

    In addition to the home carrier, Lufthansa/ Austrian, the airport is also a hub for other major European, Asian and American airlines. Its cargo business grew during 2018 to total volume (including trucking) of 295,427 tonnes – a rise of 2.6% from 2017. Flown air cargo alone rose by 4.4  per cent to 215,921 tonnes, whereas trucking declined by 1.9 per cent to 79,506 tonnes.

    Kuehne + Nagel Austria – preferred partners

    In July, the airport announced the appointment of Kuehne + Nagel Austria as ‘preferred partner’ for the handling of pharma shipments at the airport. Under the terms of the agreement, Kuehne + Nagel Austria has been granted an exclusive handling area within the VPHC, in which Kuehne + Nagel Austria will work with the airport to provide end-to-end shipping services for pharma products moving through the airport.

    Kuehne + Nagel Austria’s national airfreight manager, Patrick Mair, said: “This enables a continuous cold–chain for our shipments and seamless, temperature-controlled transportation to and from the aircraft.”

    The agreement follows other major cargo developments at Vienna since the start of the year.

    Swissport opened its second air cargo warehouse and a cargo partner facility, while DHL opened its new logistics gateway hub, as Christoph Wahl, managing director DHL Global Forwarding Austria, explains: “The new DHL Campus at the Vienna Airport adds another important logistics hub and gateway to the DHL Global Forwarding worldwide network,” he says.

    Valuable cargo handling at Vienna International Airport
    VIE cargo handling

    The new DHL campus

    “The hub is designed to meet steadily growing demand for logistics and transport services in the life science and healthcare sector, and offers greater capacity for temperature-controlled goods.”

    Indeed, DHL Global Forwarding is the only freight forwarder in Austria with its own logistics hub. The facility offers temperature-controlled space that is one of 30 such DHL Global Forwarding facilities worldwide, certified in line with IATA’s Centre of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics (CEIV Pharma) standard.

    Each of the two cold stores at the hub has an area of about 600 square metres and an operational temperature range of 2°-8°C or 15°-25°C. “With more than 1,200 square metres, we have doubled our space and now have the sufficient infrastructure to act as main gateway to Eastern Europe and vice versa,” says Wahl.

    He adds that Austria is notable for the strength of its pharma and biotech industries, with a lot of big market players located here. DHL Global Forwarding has been working for almost 20 years now in Austria for the life science and healthcare sector and has gained major expertise in the handling and shipping of high-value, time-critical and temperature- sensitive goods.

    “Having said this, and given the fact that this is a key growth sector worldwide, it was logical next step to grow and strengthen our network by building a state-of-the art logistics hub at the Vienna Airport.”

    “The new freight hub is not only an important gateway to Central and Eastern European countries,” says Wahl, “but it also provides an important point of contact for the company’s customers, which can take advantage of tailor-made transport propositions.”

    The company’s Thermonet temperature-controlled air and ocean freight service for the life sciences and healthcare sector assures regulatory compliance and higher visibility through the DHL Global Forwarding international network of GDP-certified life sciences stations, 30 of which are CEIV Pharma-certified.

    Handling of temperature controlled cargo at VIE
    Temperature deviations during tarmac transportation need to be controlled

    “These are our key life sciences facilities in our network of 100-plus locations across the world. Over many years, we have been actively involved with IATA’s continuous efforts to adequately answer to the regulatory demands of the pharmaceutical industry.” Wahl says this standardised approach in the air freight industry delivers productivity, accuracy, and reliability, and all of these lead to product integrity and patient safety and are therefore of highest importance at DHL Global Forwarding.

    Complementing the new facility at Vienna is DHL Global Forwarding’s Life Science Competence Centre, in Linz, with more than 600 square metres of CRT (Controlled Room Temperature) storage.

    “Linz is part of the DHL Air Thermonet Network too, and covers the needs of our pharmaceutical customers in western Austria as well as the Balkan Region for products that are required to handle between 2°C and 25°C,” says Wahl.

    Other innovations at DHL Global Forwarding include SmartSensors or RFID labels, to track and monitor the sensitive goods to ensure that temperature-sensitive shipments can be monitored and kept at a specific temperature throughout shipment.

    Along with the airport’s own VPHC, and the new Swissport facilities, DHL Global Forwarding’s investment is part of a cutting edge jigsaw of facilities that can help to ensure a competitive edge for Vienna International Airport’s impressive cargo offer over the coming years.