Greater focus on life sciences transport as vaccine nears release

Posted by Francisca Macias

As anticipation grows for the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, supply chains around the world are gearing up for the challenge. Transporting bio-pharmaceutical products, however, requires the incorporation of temperature-controlled equipment suitable for the safe hauling of vaccines and other biologic materials.

Bill Freidel, AIT Worldwide Logistics’ director of life sciences, explained that finding the right equipment can often be a challenge for carriers in support of their life sciences customers. Freidel noted that ocean carriers are struggling to find reefer containers and generator sets (gensets), which are used to maintain temperature as containers are drayed from port to customers.

“AIT is working very closely with our customers by reviewing their advanced schedules to determine when they’ll be releasing products,” Freidel said. “This gives us visibility weeks ahead of a normal release schedule, enabling us to work closely with our ocean partners to book shipments in advance and ensure that AIT has the proper equipment on hand to support the cargo movement upon arrival.”

Air carriers have faced even greater turbulence in 2020 as the industry continues to reel from significantly altered schedules in addition to layoffs and furloughs. Freidel predicts 2021 will be “more of the same” as 4.8 million air cargo jobs are expected to be lost — both low- and high-level positions.

“The feedback that AIT has received from the majority of our clients is that they expect 2021 to be a busier year for them,” Freidel said. “The wild card question is, how will the COVID-19 vaccine affect capacity and pricing?”

Freidel expects the COVID-19 vaccine to take priority over other shipments and its distribution to involve the U.S. military, chartered aircraft and passenger planes converting to cargo flights.

Despite facing another year of uncertainty, Freidel encourages logistics companies to maintain a high service quality and focus on meeting customer expectations. He added that forwarders can improve shipment quality by assuming more responsibility for GPS and temperature tracking. He argued that these technologies have become more cost-effective over the past few years.

“We’re looking forward to the advancements that we can deliver as AIT introduces these technologies at a 100% level for all temperature-controlled shipments,” Friedel said. “This enables us to view shipments on a door-to-door basis, identifying exactly where it is at any given time and, most importantly, providing us the internal temperature of each package.”


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