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Turkish Cargo’s Experienced Approach to Pharmaceuticals

Pharmaceuticals represent some of the most challenging and rewarding cargo to transport, both in terms of monetary value as well as value towards life. This potentially life-saving cargo can represent a challenge to transport, as it can be very sensitive. This fragile material must normally be kept under strict temperature control throughout the entire journey. Not just anyone has the capability to transport this precious cargo around the world to the places it’s needed most. An investment must first be made into the facilities, training, and certification required to transport pharmaceuticals safely and securely.

Over the 25 years of real world experience Turkish Cargo has been transporting pharma, they have seen the air cargo industry change to accommodate the growing needs of pharmaceutical companies. AFL sat down with Mr. Seref Kazancı, Commercial Cargo VP at Turkish Cargo to discuss with him further how the rapidly-growing and lucrative pharma cargo industry impacts Turkish Airlines as a whole and where he sees this industry headed.

Certified Handlers

Mr. Seref Kazancı, Commercial Cargo VP

Mr. Seref Kazancı, Commercial Cargo VP, Turkish Cargo

To carry such important shipments, a logistics provider must be held to very high standards. The transportation itself is highly regulated with a number of government agencies all over the world involved. IATA created the Center of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics (CEIV Pharma), to help organizations and the entire air cargo supply chain by addressing the industry’s need for more safety, security, compliance and efficiency, by the creation of a globally consistent and recognized pharmaceutical product handling certification.

To keep up with all the updates and regulations can be daunting, but necessary for the appropriate transportation of pharmaceuticals. Mr. Kazancı said, “At Turkish Cargo we redefined our Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for pharmaceuticals. All of our business plans and processes are in compliance with IATA’s current regulations. Pharma is a very important part of what we do here at Turkish Cargo. Because this cargo is so highly temperature sensitive, the utmost importance and scrutiny of the transportation process is placed on this cargo. We are continuously growing and expanding our pharma operation to meet the increasing demand from customers.”

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Challenging Cargo with Big Rewards

As Mr. Kazancı describes, pharma is poised to be one of the biggest potential earners for airlines that can support the transportation of this type of cargo. The various rules and regulations may keep some away, but as Mr. Kazancı went onto explain, with a carefully crafted process and rules in place, a business can thrive in the pharma transportation market. “We are experienced in carrying all types of pharmaceuticals, including: diagnostics, vaccines drugs, sera, plasma, protein clinical trials, biotechnological material, pills, and all kind of medicines. They all require safe and reliable transportation, being highly temperature sensitive products. We offer our customers various services including active and passive temperature-control systems.”

“On the ground, our new cargo terminal comprises of over 3,000 sqm of special storage area and 39 separate special cargo rooms”

“Each room has high quality standards, including climate-controlled storage units designated for pharma, vaccine, and medical supply shipments. All of our climate-controlled storage units are monitored for temperature and humidity levels via an online tracking system. In addition, Turkish Cargo provides special equipment like thermal blankets for use with cooler blocks. In case of delay or any irregularity we provide dry ice supplementation service as well.”

“In transit, Envirotainer Active Temperature Control Containers are used for pharmaceuticals due to the frequent exposure to different temperatures during flight. Temperature sensitive cargo containing health products such as vaccines, insulin, and certain cancer drugs can be stored at desired temperature ranges even during long-haul flights by use of active temperature control containers. With the support of Envirotainer, with an active cooling system, the cool chain can be ensured throughout the whole trip.”

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“The active container demands of our customers are assessed by our expert teams in our Special Cargo Directorate. On request, our containers are installed with a temperature setting by our certified experts and delivered to our clients ready to be loaded to the plane. After the acceptance of the container, it is carried into the active container storage area at our facility. The temperature and battery charge is monitored in designated periods according to instructions given in Turkish Airlines Active Container Regulations. The temperature and battery charge of the container are constantly monitored until the delivery to the consignee.”

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Training Expertise

It’s all well and good to have a certificate on the wall that says you’re certified to handle pharma, but when it comes down to it, it’s the people on the ground handling these goods that need to have the real hands on training to make a pharma operation successful. Having active training in place to make sure employees are well trained is essential. Mr. Kazancı said that, “Turkish Cargo has built a local pharma handling expertise and a pharma training mindset for the employees that handle pharmaceuticals. All Turkish Cargo staff that are involved in transporting cargo participate in international training, in-house training, and certification programs. These trainings are carried out in accordance with the regulations established by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation and standards specified in the IATA Airport Handling Manual. In addition to these trainings provided by related companies, we also provide refresher courses as well.”

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At the Center of it All

Ever since ancient times, Turkey has long been considered a gateway to both Europe and Asia. It straddles the line between the two, and as such is located in a very advantageous spot for Turkish Cargo. “Geographically, our hub in Istanbul is located in a very strategic location. The natural hub status of Istanbul enables us to provide rapid connection between the pharmaceutical producers and consumers. As Turkish Airlines, we fly the most countries in the world and we support that huge passenger flight network by including freighter destinations too. Our biggest differentiator in the air cargo business is our network that enables our customers to send their pharmaceuticals to more than 110 countries,” said Mr. Kazancı.

For the future, Mr. Kazancı sees the demand for pharmaceutical transportation only increasing. “We are aware of the huge potential in the pharmaceutical market that continues to grow day by day. We especially focus on the biggest pharmaceuticals markets in Europe and Asia to increase our market share.

We expect more than 40% increase in pharmaceutical transportation by the end of 2016

Turkish Airlines operates freighter services to many European and Asian countries and moreover, we are continuously opening new passenger routes in Europe and Asia. As our focus is in Europe and Asia we will be in a strong position to fly more pharmaceutical shipments. When analyzing the growth in the different types of cargo, it’s easy to see that pharmaceutical shipments have the highest growth rate at twice the amount as general cargo. Turkish Cargo’s strategy in 2016 is to increase pharmaceuticals share in our shipments. Owing to our new investments and projects that support this strategy, we expect more than 40% increase in pharmaceutical transportation by the end of 2016.”

It’s plain to see that airlines are seeing demands for pharmaceutical transportation rise year after year. It’s a niche that requires cooperation from all of the parties involved, from manufacturers, cargo handlers, and carriers; everyone needs to be trained properly and be highly involved in the pharma process. Quality cooperation between all parties and new innovations continue to expand this ever-growing market and helps to deliver lifesaving medicine into the hands of the people that need it most.