Industry Articles

Raising Standards for Perishables and Pharmaceuticals

Perishables and pharmaceuticals, two temperature-controlled segments, seem designed for airfreight. With short shelf lives, they have to be delivered within days rather than months.

Handling them is particularly challenging. Fruits, flowers and vegetables – amongst the first commodities carried by air – deteriorate over time and under extreme temperatures and humidity and must be handled with particular care.

The requirements are even more stringent for pharmaceuticals, as product integrity can be compromised by temperature changes during transportation, rendering them worthless and potentially harmful, or even deadly, to end recipients. To ensure quality, they require specific equipment, storage facilities, harmonised handling procedures and, above all, close co-operation among the cold chain partners.

New Standardised Global Programmes
Over the last six years, IATA has rolled out new standardised global certification programmes to support the transport and handling of perishables and pharmaceuticals. Working alongside aviation industry stakeholders and regulators, it created the Center of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics (CEIV Pharma) in 2014 to set global standards and regulations, and ensure compliance through a process of independent validation.

At the World Congress Symposium 2019 in Singapore in March, it launched the Center of Excellence for Independent Validators in Perishable Logistics (CEIV Fresh) to improve the handling and the transport by air of perishable products. The initiative builds on IATA’s Perishable Cargo Regulations (PCR) and on the success of the CEIV Pharma.

“Perishable goods are a growing market for air cargo. Ensuring that these delicate and short shelf-life products reach the customer unspoiled with minimal waste and loss is essential. Shippers will have assurance that CEIV Fresh certified companies are operating to the highest quality and standards in the transport of perishable products,” said IATA’s director general and CEO de Juniac.

IATA also introduced the CEIV Live Animals for the transport of live animals in 2018.

Singapore Enjoys Headstart
Given the importance of pharmaceuticals to the economy, Singapore is amongst the first to adopt the CEIV Pharma. SATS Coolport – SATS’ dedicated perishables facility – led the way. In November 2014, SATS Coolport became the world’s first recipient of the CEIV Pharma certification.

Singapore Airlines (SIA) has introduced a new service to transport valuable pharmaceutical cargo quickly and under strict temperature control. Called Thrucool, it offers dedicated cold chain services to safeguard the integrity of pharmaceutical and healthcare shipments during air transportation.

Changi Airport has adopted a unique community-driven approach to offer shippers an assurance of uniform standards for the secure transportation of pharma goods. CAG has partnered with a host of airfreight providers to develop a programme called Pharma@Changi. At least one company from each mode is certified. Initiated by airport manager and operator CAG in early 2016, the pioneering batch of six companies comprised freighter carrier SIA Cargo, airport ground handler dnata Singapore, and freight forwarders Global Airfreight International, Expeditors Singapore, CEVA Logistics Singapore and Schenker Singapore. This community approach has helped to boost the pharmaceuticals cargo-handling capabilities at Changi Airport.

Changi Airport is also partnering Brussels and Miami airports under the Pharma.Aero Alliance, to build an end-to-end temperature-tracking system to provide greater visibility.