Cathay Pacific Cargo on Wednesday said it had passed the milestone of shipping 15 million COVID-19 vaccines around the world.
The landmark figure includes vaccines that have been imported for use in Cathay Pacific’s home hub of Hong Kong, as well as supplies for distribution to countries including Mexico, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Cathay Pacific Head of Cargo Markets and Products John Cheng said: “The 15-million-dose landmark was achieved today upon delivery of a new batch of Fosun Pharma/BioNTech vaccines into Hong Kong. This week, we also have two other shipments from Beijing to Mexico carrying doses of Sinovac and CanSino vaccines. All of these shipments deploy our new Ultra Track multidimensional tracking and data-logging system.”
Cathay Has Carried 5 Different Brands
To date, Cathay Pacific Cargo has carried five different COVID-19 vaccine brands. Cargo Products Manager Alex Leung said: “Over the past few months, we have flown shipments of vaccines from AstraZeneca, Fosun Pharma/BioNTech, CanSino, Covaxin and Sinovac, which require different handling temperatures ranging from -70°C to 2-8°C.”
While most of the vaccine delivery flights have been to online ports, shipments to Latin America and the Caribbean in particular have showcased the strength of Cathay Pacific Cargo’s extended network.
Director Cargo Tom Owen added: “We are also hugely appreciative of the efforts from our operational teams across the world, whose expertise has enabled us to move these delicate vaccine shipments with confidence, ensuring they arrive at their destination in perfect condition.”
Mr. Owen said that they stand ready to play our part to deliver more of these much-needed vaccines as the world tackles the global pandemic. “Our Vaccine Solution has proven itself to be ideally suited to the fast and effective distribution of vaccines across the globe, using our extensive global network of both freighter and passenger fleets,” he said.
International Air Transport Association (IATA) has estimated that the vaccine distribution will require the equivalent of 8,000 Boeing 747s, and while some feel this may be slightly exaggerated – as much of the task will fall to cross-continental road transport – the scale of the logistical challenge for air cargo is undeniably daunting.
The global population is 7.8 billion, and a number of the vaccines in development will require two injections. Then there are the special requirements to consider, with some vaccines requiring storage and transport temperatures far lower than the normal range of conventional life-science shipments.
Cathay’s Ultra Track is a multi-dimensional tracking and data-logging system that uses low-energy Bluetooth transmitters, placed within individual boxes in a shipment, to record and transmit GPS position, temperature, vibration and humidity in near real-time, making it ideal for temperature-sensitive and fragile shipments.
The airline website said that its not ready to roll out across the entire network in one go, but its phased introduction will focus on markets where the vaccine manufacturers are situated and the destinations where the vaccines are being sent.
The system will work in tandem with the newly established Operations Control Centre based in Hong Kong. Working in shifts, the team monitors shipments 24/7, and can take proactive steps to intervene should any cargo start to experience temperature excursions, delays, equipment malfunction or damage on the ground.
The Operations Control Centre adds a new layer of assurance for customers. ‘It will be staffed by a team of cargo operations professionals to ensure that shipments have the highest level of care,’ says Frosti Lau, GM Cargo Service Delivery.
That’s vital for the vaccine shipments. And the consequences of something going wrong are very serious in health and financial terms. Most of the specialist forwarders Cathay Pacific have contacted are very interested in the Ultra Track product, a statement on the airline website added.