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Coolness counts: Pharma growth drives cargo facility investment

By John W. McCurry on July 30, 2013

Projected cool chain cargo demands are spurring new investment in airport facilities equipped with the latest technology to keep pharmaceuticals and other perishables at their proper temperatures. One of the more elaborate expansions is in Luxembourg where LuxairCargo has opened a €4 million (US$5.3 million) Pharma & Healthcare Centre.

The project was launched following a recommendation from freight forwarder Panalpina, who saw an opportunity to drive increased pharmaceutical cargo through Luxembourg.

“We think there will be increased traffic,” Patrick Silverio, manager special services for LuxairCargo, says. “Our customers are very interested in temperature control. Within this facility we have 70 temperature-controlled rack areas where we can store complete aircraft pallets. It has lots of advantages.”

The 3,000-square-meter (32,292-square-feet) facility was built within LuxairCargo’s existing Cargo Center and is compliant with 2013 Good Distribution Practice requirements. It offers two separate temperature-controlled areas. An area of 1,600 sq. meters (17,222 sq. feet) with a storage capacity of 1,270 pallets (Euro pallets) is dedicated to cargo that has to be kept at controlled room temperature between 15°C and 25°C (59°F and 77°F), while 818 sq. meters (8,805 sq. feet) with a storage capacity of 350 pallets is dedicated to cargo that needs to be kept at a temperature between 2°C and 8°C (35.6°F to 46.4°F).

Silverio says LuxairCargo made the investment with pharmaceutical industry growth in mind. The company believes the facility will handle between 25 and 30,000 tonnes annually with the pharmaceutical business expected to grow 7 to 12 percent per year. He says industry reaction to the new facility has been positive, and some have described it as a “masterpiece.”

In the past four years, Panalpina has experienced major growth in temperature-controlled airfreight shipments. In 2012, the number of handled files, volumes and gross profit in health care all grew by more than 20 percent. Health care shipments made up 9 percent of Panalpina’s airfreight tonnage in 2012, compared to 7 percent the year before.

“Having a purpose-built facility makes it easier to keep our customers’ products within the required temperature ranges during off-loading all the way through to build-up and storage of built units,” Helmuth Scholz, head of Panalpina’s gateway in Luxembourg, says.

Another company seeing considerable pharmaceutical growth is IAG Cargo, which broke ground in July on the site of its new, dedicated Constant Climate Centre at its London Heathrow hub. Due for completion in September, it will provide dedicated storage and handling for IAG Cargo’s Passive and Active Constant Climate products and will include two temperature controlled zones – the first maintained at 2-8˚C (35.6-46.4°F) and the second maintained at 15-25˚C (59-77°F). Once completed, the center will be able to accommodate 28 intact pallet positions or 56 AKE positions at any one time. This will increase IAG Cargo’s capacity at London Heathrow.

Ethiopian Airlines opened its new cold storage facility in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in March. The warehouse has a receiving, skid storage, palatalization and ULD storage area of 3,500 sq. meters (37,674 sq. feet). It has a controlled temperature facility ranging from 2-4˚C (35.6-39.2˚F). Ethiopian is targeting the perishables market and horticultural products in particular.

Envirotainer’s outlook

Sweden-based cool chain product specialist Envirotainer primarily serves the pharmaceutical sector. That industry’s development has kept the company growing at a nice clip.

“We are well ahead of last year, but it’s not really going according to our ambitions and plans,” Gustaf Ljunggren, Envirotainer’s CEO, says. “Overall, business is good and we expect growth to continue over the next five years, but there are absolutely some challenges we need to address in one way or another.”

Among those challenges is the ongoing modal shift to oceanfreight, which is affecting the entire airfreight sector.

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