Cool School: Inside the CEIV-Pharma certification program

E pluribus unum

In the beginning, the program at Brussels began independently of IATA. Steven Polmans, head of cargo sales and marketing for airport operator Brussels Airport Company, said that after the airport had launched a dedicated business unit for cargo four years ago, it began pursuing the vibrant, local pharmaceutical industry, which included 184 pharma- or biotech-related companies within a short distance of the Belgian capital.

Like IATA, Brussels knew that about the US$1 trillion worth of pharmaceutical goods are transported around the globe every year, many of which are medicine and vaccines that have to be kept within a narrow range of low temperatures from the moment they leave the pharma lab to their final delivery at medical facilities. According to Pharmaceutical Commerce magazine, a total of US$8.36 billion was spent on cold-chain logistics and transportation in 2014. While airfreight is the fastest way to get from origin to destination, the industry is slowly losing ground to other slower, cheaper transport modes, such as seafreight, due to the industry’s perceived inability to control fluctuations in temperature, known as “excursions.” Alarmingly, IATA said that air cargo’s global share of pharma product transport fell from 17 percent in 2000 to just 11 percent by 2013.

Knowing how important these commodities are, Polmans saw the potential for improvement in pharma transport – in terms of both volume and quality. “We decided to put all efforts possible in this segment to become the leading pharma gateway in Brussels.” Working with a consulting group and pharma giant Merck & Co., Brussels began creating regular forums with pharmaceutical shippers, setting up projects and studies through government authorities, and discussing plans to improve cool-chain infrastructure.

“During our discussions, we noticed that the main concern of the shippers was the lack of transparency and consistency in the processes at the airports. So, together with the shippers, we created our own standard and auditing format.”

The goal with these internal standards was to ensure that all players in the pharma supply chain at Brussels Airport knew exactly what everyone else was doing, so that shippers could build up trust that forwarders, airlines, ground-handlers and truckers could consistently manage temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals in the same way, every time.

It was about this time, in 2013, that IATA started doing similar work on the need for global pharmaceutical handling standards. IATA was asked by members of its Time and Temperature Task Force – consisting of stakeholders from the supply chain, such as pharma shippers, freight forwarders, ground handlers, airlines and airports – to address the modal shift of pharma fromair to seafreight. “Everyone agreed that global standards were necessary instead of the hundreds of local regulations we have now,” said Ronald Schaefer, project lead for the CEIV-Pharma program.

Using the CEIV concept that had been developed for Europe’s ACC3 security regulations, the task force began developing a preliminary checklist, a training program that would teach the basics of the new standards as well as a compliance program with a strong emphasis on transparency. From November

2013 to February 2014, IATA conducted a successful pilot test of the CEIV guidelines at the Singapore Air Terminal Services (SATS) Coolport facility, involving 80 employees. From that initial test, IATA developed a plan to roll the program out to the rest of the supply chain.

When Brussels got wind of this, executives there decided to join forces with the regulatory organization and make their program not just a regional standard but a global one. “We learned they [IATA] were doing the same thing via a press release,” BRUcargo’s Polmans said. “We both soon realized this would have worldwide branding appeal.”

Thus the IATA CEIV-Pharma program was launched, and Brussels became the first full-scale test subject. The combination of the cargo community approach at Brussels and the reputation and worldwide presence of IATA were a natural fit.

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