WFS launches Project Coldstream in preparation for global air cargo deliveries of COVID vaccine

Worldwide Flight Services (WFS), the world’s largest air cargo handler, has launched Project Coldstream to co-ordinate its response to the anticipated global transportation of some 16 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine, expected to commence in late 2020 and continue through 2021/2.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the industry expects this to be the largest airlift of a single commodity ever, requiring the equivalent capacity of 8,000 747 aircraft.

Headed by taskforce leader, Mike Duffy, WFS’ EVP Innovation, and supported by senior operations, commercial and communications specialists across WFS’ global network, Project Coldstream is working closely with airlines, forwarders and logistics providers, government agencies and industry organisations such as Pharma.Aero and The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) to clearly understand temperature and handling requirements. The group will be responsible for developing in-house solutions to the challenge, ensuring the preparedness of WFS’ pharma handling capability, devising plans for additional capacity where needed, and working closely with WFS’ airline customers.

WFS’ multi-million Euro investments in a network of temperature-controlled pharma handling facilities at strategic airport locations around the world over the past two years means it has already earned preferred partner status with many of the world’s biggest transporters of pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

WFS currently operates 12 dedicated pharma facilities in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Cape Town, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Johannesburg, London, Madrid, Miami, New York JFK, and its €10 million state-of-the-art Pharma Centre at Paris CDG. These facilities are all either IATA CEIV or Good Distribution Practice (GDP) certified or compliant.

Barry Nassberg, WFS’ Group Chief Commercial Officer, commented: “Since the start of the COVID pandemic, WFS has been at the forefront of the global response, ensuring vital supplies of Personal Protective Equipment and other medical supplies arriving at airports for hospitals and medical centres around the world have been handled quickly and securely to help save the lives of patients recovering from the virus, and support front-line medical personnel. We are extremely proud to be playing a key role in the international response to COVID and the next big stage of this will be the rapid and safe distribution of vaccines once they are approved. WFS’ significant investment in dedicated facilities and training for pharma shipments means we are uniquely placed to meet the requirements of governments, the pharma industry and our customers. They can be assured of our robust support.”

Across its network of pharma facilities, WFS’ capabilities include:

  • Dedicated facilities in the heart of airport cargo zones to expedite handling of imports and exports
  • Ability to manage shipments requiring both +2°C to +8°C and +15°C to +25°C temperature environments, and -20°C in some of our stations.
  • Real-time temperature monitoring and temperature excursion alarms
  • Full track and trace capabilities
  • Active temperature-controlled container handling
  • Temperature-controlled trucks, trailers and dollies
  • Landside and airside acceptance

As well  as facilities dedicated to the safe storage, handling and transportation of pharma and medical devices, WFS has dedicated teams of specialists assigned to each location. They have either completed IATA CEIV training or the special Pharma Module covering handling, audits, quality and risk management for temperature-controlled cargoes developed by the WFS Academy, accredited by IATA as one of the world’s top 10 aviation training providers.

The entire WFS response is also underpinned by its Quality Management System to oversee specialist processes, management oversight and the delivery of KPIs. Security will be another core feature of the WFS solution, monitored by the company’s global security operations centres, and including features such as restricted access to pharma zones, security fencing, 24/7 CCTV coverage and intrusion alarm systems.

Mike Duffy said: “The world is waiting for a COVID vaccine to save lives and to support economic recovery. Over half of global vaccine doses are expected to be transported by air cargo because of its speed and reliability, dictated by global demand and the absence of local production facilities in some countries. We are part of an industry-wide solution which is mapping where vaccines are being produced to ensure rapid global vaccine trade flows. We will use all the capabilities we have to deliver and support a consistent and reliable end-to-end handling solution.”

The transportation of COVID vaccines is expected to commence by the end of 2020, reach its peak in the second half of 2021, and continue into 2022. Countries and trading blocs have already ordered over 5 billion doses and, already, some 65,000 tonnes of vaccine are forecast to require air cargo transportation, plus ancillary hardware and PPE which will be needed to administer it.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), some 140 COVID-19 vaccines are in the initial stages of development globally, with around two dozen being tested on people in clinical trials. In accordance with demand, WFS will also ensure the preparedness of other key stations across its network spanning 175 airports in 20 countries in Europe, the Americas, Asia Pacific and Africa.

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