IATA and Brussels Airport seek to build a 'certified community' around cold chain regs for air transport


Airport will organize client carriers to meet new IATA standards

The International Air Transport Assn. (Montreal) has “welcomed” the Brussels Airport “to become the first to become the first European hub for pharmaceutical freight using IATA’s global certification program for shipping cold-chain pharmaceuticals,” according to a statement. Over the past year, IATA, which represents the majority of air transport (passenger and cargo) capacity globally, established a certification specific to pharmaceutical transport, run by its Center of Excellence for Independent Validators (CEIV). Last February, the SATS Coolport in Singapore became the first organization to obtain the CEIV training and certification (SATS Ltd. is a private company that operates a cargo terminal and provides airport gateway services there and elsewhere in the region; the Coolport is a perishable-goods facility there.)

In the case of Brussels, according to IATA, the airport management is inviting 10 local stakeholders including ground handlers, freight forwarders, truckers and airlines, to obtain the CEIV training and certification; presumably, the airport can then present itself to the global pharma industry as a preferred node for air transport. "Brussels Airport is aiming to strengthen its position as a leading gateway for the handling and transportation of pharmaceutical freight in Europe," said Steven Polmans, Head of Cargo at Brussels Airport. "We hope that our leadership in being recognized as a CEIV Pharma certified community will persuade other airports to do the same.” Whether all the invited stakeholders will participate, and when certification would be completed, remains to be seen.

IATA notes that its certification “goes beyond” the Good Distribution Practices (GDP) standards established by the European Union last year; those GDP standards apply to all forms of shipping, seeking to solidify the integrity of temperature-controlled shipments including healthcare products.

The EU GDP standards are considered the state of the art by most of the global pharma logistics industry, but there are many other standards—from the US Pharmacopeia, the Parenteral Drug Assn., a European-based voluntary organization, PIC/S (the Pharmaceutical Inspection Cooperation Scheme), national health authorities and even some vendors that come into play. Airport managers putting themselves into a competitive role brings yet another element into the picture.

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