Dallas Fort Worth looks to India for pharma flows

Dallas Fort Worth International airport (DFW) is working with India’s Hyderabad airport to develop pharma product flows after the US hub’s cargo community gained IATA’s CEIV Pharma certification.

John Ackerman, executive vice president of global strategy and development at DFW Airport, said: “We have been spending time in Hyderabad and Mumbai over the past year because there is tremendous demand for pharma trade flows to DFW. We are actively talking to a couple of airlines and several Indian pharma producers about that.”

Those airline discussions are focused on establishing a freighter connection from India to DFW: “Given aircraft ranges, that is unlikely to be a direct flight, so there would have to be a stop some place. We are actively pursuing that and the airlines are very interested. 

“There is tremendous pent up demand and when I visited Hyderabad in late January I spoke with several companies that were very excited about DFW but they were not aware that we are a viable pharma gateway. We are working hard to change that perception.”

The Texan hub, which handled around 911,000 tons of airfreight in 2018, is one of only two airports in North America to gain CEIV Pharma certification.

Ground handler dnata Cargo USA has a 37,000 sq ft cargo centre that includes a dedicated cool-chain perishable cargo facility at DFW.

The airport teamed up with four DFW community members as part of the CEIV Pharma programme: dnata Cargo USA, reefer trucker SCL Cold Chain, warehousing and distribution specialist B.I.G. Logistics and freight forwarder Expeditors.

Added Ackerman: “When we worked on perishables and pharma as a subset of that, we knew that we needed two things: a world class cool chain facility, which opened a little over a year ago with dnata, and then CEIV Pharma.

“Now that we have those two things in place, we expect the pharma shipments to go up.”

He continued: “We wanted to demonstrate our commitment to CEIV and it is relatively new for the US. We have only the second CEIV community in the US.”

DFW has its charter members for CEIV Pharma and expects that more will be added over time: “For now we are starting with those four, a great nucleus with outstanding companies that are leaders in the industry and in our region.”

Asked about the catchment area for pharma products at DFW, Ackerman said: “We are the fourth largest metropolitan area in the US, so we have a great deal of local demand in our own right. So some of this [pharma products] would stay in the local market, some of it would transit to Latin America.” 

There may also be the possibility of winning pharma traffic from inbound gateways such as Chicago where onward trucking links suffer from traffic congestion.

DFW’s cargo team is working with Indian airports group GMR, which runs Hyderabad,  to develop those pharma flows: “We have found on the passenger side that when the airports at either end of the route work together then you tend to be more successful.

“We are employing that same model with Hyderabad, which has invested a tremendous amount in developing cargo business at the airport.

“They are keen to establish a trade lane with DFW and have seen a lot of demand for it on their side. We think that will help us accelerate the process.”

DFW’s cargo management team also has close links with Brussels airport and French airports group ADP, which runs Paris CDG.

While not yet part of the Pharma.Aero collaborative platform championed by Brussels, Ackerman said: “It is something we are exploring but we are also looking at how we would build that digital ecosystem here as well.

“We believe that, just like Brussels, you need not just the physical infrastructure, the buildings, the players and CEIV Pharma, but also the digital platform which is becoming increasingly important.

“We have to address that as well and we have got a couple of my colleagues looking here at what the best option for us.”

DFW signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with ADP in late 2018 to work on developing the DFW-Paris trade lane: “We have identified a couple of different trade lanes that we think are promising and one is pharma. We can learn a lot from the ADP team.”

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