The flights set off from Seoul to Chicago with stopovers in Chongqing and Amsterdam. They were kicked off in August but officially announced only now. In a release DHL-GF states that they are primarily driven by the transport demand of the life sciences and healthcare industry that leverages the company’s cold chain capabilities but have also been requested by producers of technological products.
The flights linking three continents are operated by a Boeing 747-400F of U.S. carrier Atlas Air and conducted twice weekly. They are managed by StarBroker, DHL Global Forwarding's in-house charter agent. In contrast to the westbound sector, the return flights from ORD to ICN are operated nonstop. The Atlas freighter has been wet-leased by DHL-GF for a period of one year with an option of extension, DHL-GF spokesperson David Stoeppler confirms.
Remarkable export figures
The demand for pharmaceuticals and healthcare products skyrocketed during Covid-19. A fact that producers in South Korea took advantage of very early as seen by a 26.7% upsurge of the country’s healthcare exports in the first half-year of 2020 in a year-to-year comparison, and even surpassed by a stunning increase of 52.5% of pharmaceutical goods sold globally in the same time period. Simultaneously, the “appetite” of the U.S. market for medical items, pharma, and healthcare products went through the roof as the pandemic kept spreading. A trend that also benefitted China which exported 28.5% more medical devices in the first five months of this year compared to the year before.
No alternative to charter services
Given the high market demand and the ongoing lack of belly capacities, DHL-GF’s only option to maintain a steady supply chain was the launch of the charter chain from the Far East via Europe to the USA, Thomas Mack, Global Head of Air Freight DHL Global Forwarding confirms: “DHL Global Forwarding’s top priority is to provide our customers with sufficient and reliable air freight capacity. Not only are the resilient, agile, and reliable supply chains of highest importance for an economic recovery, but also in preparation for the availability of vaccines and other essential medical supplies during the pandemic.”
The executive adds that DHL has built up its expertise from globally certified facilities and staff, to technologies that track shipments in real-time in addition to ensuring the integrity of such products throughout their journey. Getting the much-needed air capacity “is the last piece in the value chain puzzle, so to speak, that ensures temperature sensitive products such as life-saving vaccines reach the communities-in-need.”
In this respect, the results of a recent analysis exploring the logistics challenges for vaccines and medical goods during COVID-19 times are incredible. According to the study, jointly conducted by DHL and McKinsey, up to ~200,000 pallet shipments and ~15 million deliveries in cooling boxes, as well as ~15,000 flights will be required across the various supply chain set-ups to provide global coverage of COVID-19 vaccines. IATA claims that the capacity of at least 8,000 B747 freighters will be required to transport Covid-19 vaccines from their production sites to international places where needed. Some sources even speak of up to 12,000 Jumbo freighters.
These are dizzying figures, challenging the entire industry and which may well separate the chaff from the wheat in the end.
Will only the fittest logistics players survive the corona pandemic?
The Deutsche Post subsidiary made it clear in a press release that the company considers itself well equipped for the task despite all the imponderables. In the release, the company emphasizes that it operates a tightly knit global network of facilities that meet the European Union’s Good Distribution Practice (GDP) guidelines for life sciences and healthcare products. Further to this, DHL-GF stresses that it offers the market a “suite of temperature-controlled freight solutions” such as DHL Air Thermonet and DHL LifeConEx, both allowing real-time visibility and active monitoring for the movement of goods that could include medicines, supplements, vaccines, medical devices, and diagnostic equipment.
DHL-GF rounds off its track record by pointing out that since the beginning of April, it has flown more than 1.3 million Covid-19 test kits from South Korea to Brazil, Ecuador, India, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. This translates into its certainty of being well prepared to handle the upcoming tsunami of vaccines.
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