Brussels Airport Pharma Certification May Gather a Following

The IATA-supported certification of Brussels Airport as a ‘preferred pharma gateway in Europe’ is a first step in a process still in need of further fine-tuning. Yet, the concept has not gone unnoticed across the border.

Eddy Van Craen, BAFI  /  photos: ms
Eddy Van Craen, BAFI / photos: ms

Just before the official certification ceremony, the eleven stakeholders met in a working group discussing the possibilities following the certification and the obstacles still to overcome. Invited as observers were the Air Cargo Managers’ Association of Belgium (ACMAB, airlines), the Organization of Traffic Managers (OTM, shippers) and the Belgian Airfreight Institute (BAFI, forwarders). The latter’s director Eddy Van Craen admits that some of the larger forwarders have already made considerable investments to comply with mutual agreements with the participating pharmaceutical companies and also comply with the European guidelines for Good Distribution Practices (GDP).

Standardization needed
On the other hand some forwarders have not yet made this step and do not know very well where to start, says Van Craen. “From the working group we learned that the interest for the system that is being highlighted by Brussels Airport is huge, but so is the need for standardisation and harmonisation.”
On the airlines side, however, the interest is rather modest (Brussels Airlines and Finnair are among the ‘founding’ group), the BAFI director says. “There are some problems with the conclusion of service level agreements (SLA’s) and the different set-up of the airlines impedes the creation of a standard approach on the handling side. The booking information does not reach the handler on time.”

Still some open questions that need to be answered
Other problems still needing to be solved include the sometimes difficult discussion between the stakeholders on key performance indicators (KPI’s), the development of standard packaging and labelling and, above all, the apron and airside transport. “What if the aircraft is or cannot be ready for transport? Suppose it arrives in the summer with a very short turnaround time, so that there is insufficient time to bring the belly hold to the temperature required. This could be overcome by using cool containers, but that would entail an extra investment. And the cost factor as a whole, - who will pay for what - is another problem still to be solved.”

David Smith, SDV
David Smith, SDV

Positive testimonials:


Among the ‘first hour’ companies participating on the CEIV Pharma, was forwarding group SDV. “We wanted to be part of this”, said David Smith, CEO Northern Europe at SDV. “Pharma plays a vital part in the local development of our business in Africa as well as of our strategy as a whole. With this kind of certification, it will be possible for us to make the difference. We have always seen pharma logistics as one of the verticals in our group and in this respect I think we are among the first companies ‘to jump on the train’.”

The company’s regional healthcare manager for Europe, Brice Bellin, added that a CEIC certification would enable SDV to manage its intercontinental freight lanes more globally following a similar concept.

Herman Hoornaert, Brussels Airlines Cargo
Herman Hoornaert, Brussels Airlines Cargo

He also showed himself to be a strong advocate to have an equally reliable level of certification at destination.

Brussels Airlines Cargo:
As the home carrier at Brussels Airport, Brussels Airlines has always had a steady pharmaceuticals volume, says Head of Cargo Herman Hoornaert. As an example he gives the route between Brussels and Washington, on which regular consignments are carried for a particular shipper. “As we only fly this route during the summer season, we can now use the winter period to approach the shippers and others to demonstrate that we have been doing our homework. I hope that being part of this certified chain will attract more business to our cargo network. But it’s also very important that the shippers are duly informed.”

M.J.P.M. Wijngaards, Jan de Rijk
M.J.P.M. Wijngaards, Jan de Rijk

Jan de Rijk:

For Jan de Rijk Logistics, the only trucking company involved in the concept, the CEIV certification is another step in a niche market already well served, said  M.J.P.M. Wijngaards, Deputy Managing Director. “Also in our haulage business we transport a lot of pharmaceuticals and we are very active in health logistics as well. As a showcase I wish to remind you that we have taken over the entire transport business of Baxter. For our land transport activity, we already had a GDP certification and we regard the CEIV label as a logical next step. It is our intention to carry this process further throughout the group as a whole.”

Schiphol alerted
In its latest newsletter Air Cargo Netherlands (ACN), the umbrella organization of the Dutch air cargo community, draws attention to the Brussels certification. ACN reminds its members of the fact that pharma is the fastest growing market segment in the air cargo industry.
“A recent survey on Schiphol Airport has demonstrated that the availability of a chain of certified parties is an important decision motive for shippers. Brussels Airport is making itself known as a pharma hub and Frankfurt Airport is exploring the opportunities.”
On Wednesday 17 December ACN, the Dutch shippers’ organisation EVO and Schiphol Cargo are hosting their own CEIV Pharma familiarisation day.

Marcel Schoeters in Brussels

Write a comment

Comments: 1
  • #1

    Nathan de Valck (Tuesday, 02 December 2014 14:42)

    Marcel, Heiner,

    I enjoyed reading this follow up article on your previous report titled "Brussels becomes benchmark in pharma handling."
    Some nice interviews with participants and observers.
    Good reflection of the added value of the IATA standard and the remaining open questions.

    thanks and brgds,

    Nathan De Valck
    Cargo Account Manager
    Sales & Marketing
    Brussels Airport Company