Uncertain Certification: Do CEIV-Pharma standards really help?

Are there other options?

And it’s not just the costs, time and scope. When Emirates SkyCargo opted instead for GDP certification for its pharma transport infrastructure in 2017, the media wanted to know why. “It made perfect sense,” said Emirates SkyCargo senior vice president for cargo, Nabil Sultan. GDP was “what customers wanted.”

More than a year later, Emirates SkyCargo’s position is unchanged. “We chose GDP following a quick question round with forwarders and pharma companies in early 2015 and they all pointed at GDP,” explained Henrik Ambak, senior vice president for cargo. “Logically, GDP is an E.U. regulatory framework for logistics underpinning GMP [good manufacturing practices] for the manufacturing of pharma.”

Ambak added that Emirates SkyCargo achieved full customer recognition with GDP certification and had, “no plans to add CEIV-Pharma.”

Nathan de Valck, cargo manager at Brussels Airport, has a different opinion, saying that GDP standards are a good basis and foundation for any pharma program, but that they are not a good standard for airfreight. “If you limit yourself to the straight interpretation of GDP because it’s for storage, it doesn’t focus on transportation. It’s also not consistently implemented – it’s not always transparent. There’s no real checklist [and] you cannot validate the program.”

Is IATA doing a better job? Yes, said de Valck. By starting with GDP standards and building from there, IATA arrived at what de Valck calls, “GDP++.” He added that, IATA’s CEIV standards, “actually take GDP standards and translate them to actionable items for our industry.”

Moving the conversation forward

De Valck is a staunch advocate for CEIV-Pharma standards, but even he agrees that air cargo is not “there” yet when it comes to shipping pharma, but it is improving, according to shippers. “When it comes to execution, a lot of things still go wrong,” de Valck said. What is needed, he says, is a “pharma mindset.”

Before turning to solutions, it’s important to note that even IATA’s toughest critics are often its fiercest defenders. “Looking at CEIV today, IATA did a great job establishing a standard for the airfreight industry,” admitted K+N’s Fujike. IATA has taken a multimodal approach, including road, and is now looking at similarities with other modes of transport, such as oceanfreight. The organization says that talks are already taking place.

“IATA’s done a pretty good job of stepping up to the plate,” agreed the AfA’s Fried. From carriers to forwarders, certified companies say that the investment is quick to pay off. Clearly IATA is doing something right.

IATA’s Schaefer pointed out that CEIV-Pharma was, first and foremost, a response to the industry’s demands. The program, Schaefer explained, was crafted in response to the unique requirements of the airfreight industry, and the fees they charge for certification are necessary to cover costs. The program is not intended to require infrastructure build up, but instead to conduct risk assessments on what companies have vs. their service offering.

IATA has also grappled with eliminating interpersonal training from the program and other cost-cutting measures, but Schaefer maintained that doing so is fraught with risk. “If you have a book out there, people might take a look at it, and do some training,” he said. “But you can’t really ensure that companies are really complying. With CEIV-Pharma, we are creating a standard, we’re creating a training program.” For Schaefer, the red CEIV symbol is a guarantee that companies are actually following that standard.

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