The Coronavirus has had a drastic effect on countless industries, including aviation. In recent months, air cargo has played a pivotal for many airlines, with shipping goods remaining a top priority. Despite a global lockdown and travel restrictions in the first months of the crisis, trade and commerce have remained essential. Shipping freight continues to be crucial, and for Swiss WorldCargo, transporting pharmaceutical and healthcare goods remains a pivotal focus.
In the beginning of the Coronavirus crisis, Swiss WorldCargo imported thousands of masks, surgical gowns, gloves and related healthcare-equipment. In recent months, this has shifted, and while transporting PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment) remains important, this has also given way to different commercial goods, including pharmaceuticals.
Swiss WorldCargo has long enjoyed an industry-leading reputation in the transport of pharmaceuticals. This, of course, is partially due to its strategic location, with Basel being a major centre of pharmaceutical production and only being about one hour away by truck. With this close proximity, the export of pharmaceutical goods to diverse destinations within the wide-ranging network has always been possible. This network plays an important role, with Swiss WorldCargo’s long-haul flights connecting Switzerland to several major pharmaceutical hubs. San Francisco, Tokyo, New York, Boston, Singapore, and others are notable homes to diverse pharmaceutical firms, production centres and research facilities. However, it is not only the connection to these cities, but also the transportation throughout the supply chain which is critical. Swiss WorldCargo’s focus on becoming GDP-compliant by Swissmedic at its hub in Zurich, as well as ensuring that the airline is CEIV-certified, is critical in ensuring safe and successful transport. Especially in the case of pharma, where goods often need to remain cold, refrigerated or adhere to strict temperature limits.
What has changed in recent months?
In recent months, Swiss WorldCargo has introduced a network of cargo-only flights. Traditionally a belly-carrier, these new flights now operate on three of our modified Boeing 777-300ERs. In recent months, the carrier has operated close to 1,000 cargo-only flights from Zurich to different destinations around the world. Many of these carried pharmaceutical products on board, and connecting Switzerland to the world remains our core focus. With destinations such as Buenos Aires, Dubai, Delhi, Shanghai and others in scope, the regular transportation of pharmaceuticals remains key and a vital factor.
There has also been growth in in both the active and passive segments. This reflects the ongoing demand for pharmaceuticals, independently of the pandemic. Another notable trend, which has become evident in recent years, is an ongoing focus on personalized medicines and clinical trials. While larger shipments, such as vaccines, continue to make up a large portion of our pharmaceutical transport, there is also an increased shift towards smaller shipments. Personalized medicines, clinical trials, and other samples requiring smaller packaging and less physical space continue to remain important.
Vaccine transport – we are preparing
A topic which is frequently mentioned in the media is the transportation of a COVID-19 vaccine, once it becomes available. Indeed, once approved and ready for distribution, shipping such a vaccine worldwide will represent massive logistical challenge. Swiss WorldCargo has begun to ready itself for this, knowing that the focus on this transportation must be a top priority. Internally, a committee has been assembled which is analysing how to best support and carry out this transportation. The committee is also evaluating different points of the Swiss WorldCargo network, to better understand where any logistical challenges may emerge from, and looking at how topics such as speed of shipping and hub size can be overcome.
Lots has changed in recent months, with the air cargo industry continuing to be busy with supporting different parts of a global network. One thing is clear, however – pharmaceutical transport will continue to remain important for both Swiss WorldCargo, and Switzerland.