Pharma defection to ocean is ‘wake-up call’ to airfreight

Airlines are targeting premium products to claw back lost revenue from the recession. Foremost of those is the cool chain for fresh produce and pharmaceuticals.
But, according to Steef Van Amersfoort, chairman of the air transport at the Dutch Shippers Council and veteran pharmaceutical-logistics executive, there is a massive difference between what pharma shippers need and expect, and what the airlines actually deliver.
“To be honest, there aren’t a lot of airlines offering time and temperature sensitive (T&TS) shipping services that I am confident of,” he says.
“I don’t want to be told ‘don’t worry’ about my shipment. I need to know everything about the service. I need to know about the hardware, but also about its organisational processes, so I can see it is properly a part of the company.
“I often see that the airlines control the service themselves at the origin and during transit,” he adds, “but at the destination they rely on handling companies that either do not offer the same service or offer one that the airline is not willing to pay a premium for.
“Even within the airline, not everyone always knows about the specifications of the service. If you offer a service you have to ensure it can be delivered to every part of your network at the same level of quality and reliability.”
Van Amersfoort says that there have been encouraging developments lately, but that there is still far to go.
“With so much pharma now being sent by ship, that should be a wake-up call for airlines to start investing into a reliable air cargo supply chain for pharma,” he warns.
“IATA implementing a T&TS label was a nice first step, as was the task force, but there is still a huge gap between the premium we pay and the premium service we get.
“Carriers need to recognise that becoming a pharma specialist requires more than just saying you’re one. It requires training of operational people and an obligation to invest in airport facilities.”
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