Benelux airports taking the lead in Covid-19 vaccine logistics
The launch of the Covid-19 vaccines distribution has brought the ultimate test for the Benelux airports marketing their position as pharma hubs. By 16DEC20 seven Covid-19-vaccine-related flights had departed from Brussels Airport: a collaboration between United Airlines, Expeditors, DHL Global Forwarding, and DHL Express. The airport can benefit from its proximity to the Pfizer production plant in Puurs, a mere 20 km away. “As a worldwide pharmaceutical platform, we are ready to speed up as the vaccine volumes are set to grow in the weeks and months to come,” says the airport’s CEO, Arnaud Feist.
Liege Airport has been designated a WHO medical hub and the Covid-19-related business has been a firm contributor to the airport’s record volume of 1 million tons in 2020.
Sixty companies are part of Vaccines Gateway Netherlands (VGN), a taskforce working together for the logistics support of Covid-19 vaccines from manufacturer to end user. “The Taskforce strives to make Schiphol the European Gateway for the most efficient, secure and reliable handling and transportation of Covid-19 vaccines,” says Ferry van der Ent, Director of Business Development, Schiphol Cargo.
Brazilian Satellite hitches a ride on Emirates SkyCargo
On 30DEC20, Emirates SkyCargo uplifted the Amazonia-1, a Brazilian space satellite, from Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil, to Chennai in India, via Dubai, UAE. Though it is already familiar with transporting satellites as well as other space technology freight, having flown the first 100%-Emirati-developed Khalifasat satellite from Dubai, UAE, to Seoul, South Korea back in 2018, it was a premiere for the airline for a charter shipment of this kind from South America and required in-depth preparations for the transport to run smoothly and securely. This involved seeking special authorization to deploy its B777F to and from Sao Jose dos Campos airport, and included two extensive simulation session in advance which Emirates SkyCargo carried out in cooperation with the INPE (National Institute for Space Research – which developed the Amazonia-1 over a period of 8 years), the airport and local partners.
To facilitate loading and unloading in the aircraft, the satellite was dismantled into a number of components, which were then packed in large, protective containers. The entire shipment weighed in the region of 22 tons and was accompanied on board by 4 members of the INPE team, who continuously monitored the status of the cargo during the flight.
Once launched into space from the Satish Dhawan Space Center on the Indian East coast in FEB21, the Amazonia-1 will help monitor the ecosystem of the Amazon rainforest, the world’s largest tropical rainforest.
3000+ pigs take to the skies in a year that has seen everything
They say that pigs might fly… Well, they really do! Though in 2020, we are probably inclined to believe anything, anyhow. These were real pigs, however – a total of 3146, which – along with 199 cattle – were transported on board five individual charter flights carried out over a period of six days during the Christmas period, by Intradco Global, which advertises as “the world’s leading equine, livestock and exotics transportation air charter specialist” with more than 30 years of experience in the business. Destined for different customers, the animals traveled from the UK to China, from the USA to Qatar and China, and from Denmark to Russia.
“As we grow our global footprint, the focus is on developing our expert teams in key import and export markets. It is exciting to see really collaborative relationships with airlines and shippers in new markets. Live animal shipments require close and accurate communication between all stakeholders involved. Our experienced teams have got the right mix of local and global knowledge, allowing for competitive pricing, with a precise service,” Charlie McMullen, Intradco Global Director stated, referring to the company’s international coverage and its rapid expansion in Canada, Europe and Middle East.
Volga-Dnepr Airlines’ An-124-100 is airborne again
Following the grounding of all its An-124s at the end of NOV20 as a consequence of a crash earlier that month (CFG reported: https://www.cargoforwarder.eu/2020/11/13/v-d-operated-an-124-100-narrowly-escaped-a-catastrophe/), Volga-Dnepr Airlines announced on 29DEC20, that it had resumed commercial flights on the first of its grounded An-124-100. All technical inspections and service standards had been passed, leading to its reintegration into the company’s flight plans. Konstantin Evgenievich Vekshin, Chief Commercial Director of Volga-Dnepr Group, underlined expectations to have the entire An-124 fleet up and running again over the course of 2021, obviously on condition that the “safety first” credo can be complied with. “It seems that we will be able to restore commercial flights on the An-124 by the end of this year. Now we strictly comply with all service directives and carry out technical inspections. As we expected, the first An-124-100 is ready to fly. We will gradually introduce the rest of the aircraft, but only after the completion of all inspections and the execution of service directives.” Customers would be kept updated as to reimplementation plans.
Two weeks earlier, on 16DEC20, Volga-Dnepr began its first B777F operations, after the Boeing aircraft had received its Russian certification.
Vegetable “Air Bridges” to the UK
As the EU borders came crashing down with the news of a highly agile Covid-19 mutation in the UK, over 3,000 trucks were left stranded with ferry and rail-tunnel services blocked, in addition to the passenger flight cancellations. A stagnation that lasted almost an entire week, at a crucial point just before the Christmas holidays. Lufthansa Cargo “came to the rescue” with a B777F flying around 80 tons of urgent cargo – mainly perishables that had become backlogged in Frankfurt, but also clothing, oil-field equipment, medical equipment, and aircraft parts to Doncaster Sheffield Airport, UK on 23DEC20. A second flight, this time with around 100 tons of fruit and vegetables was planned for 02JAN21, and destined for UK supermarkets including Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s, the Co-op, and Aldi.
The trucking trauma has let to shortages of drivers willing to travel to the UK, and the additional delays expected through increased customs now that the UK has left the EU, means that supply chains could be affected a little while longer, plus that price increases are expected for certain foods as a knock-on effect of drivers demanding higher wages, and air cargo being used as an alternative transport channel. Over at Lufthansa Cargo, considerations are also under way as to how best to service Ireland. According to Bloomberg, Lufthansa Cargo presswoman, Jacqueline Casini indicated that the company was looking in to sending freight via ferry from France to Ireland, rather than having it trucked across the UK.
Over at Air France KLM Martinair Cargo, four additional cargo only A330 flights from Schiphol, NL, to London Heathrow, UK, were also set up in response to customer demand and carried out on 25DEC20 and 26DEC20, with a view for more planned either from Paris Charles de Gualle, FR, or Amsterdam, NL, if required.
Things you don’t want happening on New Year’s Eve
Media reports that an Avianca A319 flying from Orlando, USA, to Bogotá, Columbia, on 31DEC20, collided with a pyrotechnic balloon just as it was coming in to land at El Dorado airport, Bogotà. In Avianca’s official statement, however, the information is that the balloon hit the aircraft after it had already landed at 20:09, with no harm to crew or passengers, nor inconveniencing the passengers in any way with regard to connecting flights. The images and video published on twitter (https://twitter.com/conradoaviacion) show damage to parts of the plane, which resembles a carnival float covered in garlands. The fire brigade inspected the aircraft, which was then towed at 20:59. Needless to say, it is illegal to set off burning balloons, even more so near an airport, and Avianca appealed to the public to heed this restriction.
A slightly different repatriation flight
On 12DEC20, Turkish Cargo carried out a repatriation flight of a somewhat different kind. On board its New York, USA – Istanbul, Turkey flight was a 1,700- year-old passenger: the goddess Cybele, returning home after being smuggled out of western Turkey around 50-60 years ago. Cybele, or “Kybele” is referred to as the Mother Goddess and was considered both symbol and protector of fertility and abundance in the Mediterranean Basin, especially in Anatolia. Her ticket was offered free of charge by Turkish Cargo, working in cooperation with the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism. On 13DEC20, Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, the Turkish Minister of Culture and Tourism unveiled the statue at the Istanbul Archeology Museum, where it will remain on exhibition until a new museum is built to house it in Afyonkarahisar, 250 km south-west of Ankara, in western Turkey.
Turkish Cargo is well versed in transporting artifacts, from shipping 50 masterpieces from the Louvre Museum, Paris, France to Tehran, Iran, to Turkish museum pieces normally resident in the Topkapı and Dolmabahce Palaces to Japan, to shipping the Roman Sarcophagus of Hercules from Geneva, Switzerland, to Istanbul, Turkey. The latest delicate cargo, however, was a fitting end to successful year for Turkish Cargo, otherwise very much involved in transporting Covid-19-related freight, such as its final shipment of 2020: the first 3 million doses of the Chinese Covid-19 Sinovac vaccines from Beijing, China, to Ankara, Turkey.
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