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Emirates SkyCargo Opens New GDP Certified Pharma Terminal in Dubai

The never-ending summer that Emirates SkyCargo calls home in Dubai is not the most hospitable place for keeping cargo cool. Not backing away from a challenge, Emirates SkyCargo took the initiative to study and invest in major infrastructure that has made the airline a leading transporter of temperature sensitive cargo.

The first step was the inauguration of Emirates SkyCentral, an ultra-modern facility inside Dubai World Central (DWC) that gave Emirates SkyCargo room to flourish and enabled them to become a hub for all types of cargo. Expanding even further, AFL was recently invited to the grand opening of a brand new dedicated pharma facility dubbed Emirates SkyPharma. The new purpose-built facility at Dubai International Airport (DXB), offers 4,000 sqm of space dedicated to pharma life sciences cargo. We sat down with Nabil Sultan, Emirates Divisional Senior Vice President, Cargo, to discuss just what this facility will be able to offer pharmaceutical customers.

Making a Statement

Nabil Sultan

Mr. Nabil Sultan

Emirates SkyCargo is staking their claim for Dubai to become the premiere hub for pharmaceutical cargo with the new SkyPharma facility. The new purpose built Emirates SkyPharma facility is part of the new 11,000 sqm extension of Emirates SkyCentral terminal at Dubai International Airport. The new facility features temperature controlled zones (2-8 degree Celsius and 15-25 degree Celsius), 88 temperature controlled individual positions in the automated ULD handling system and five temperature controlled acceptance and delivery truck docks.

Mr. Sultan sees pharma cargo of great importance for both the airline and Dubai. “One of the big government focuses here in Dubai is on healthcare as one of the major drivers for the city. Healthcare city has been built already here in Dubai and it attracts some of the best doctors in the world. Many pharmaceutical companies find that Dubai is quite attractive for them to move and end up basing themselves here. They see Dubai as a major distribution hub for them to service the entire region. It’s therefore our duty to ensure that we’ve got the right infrastructure in place to be able to facilitate the transportation of medicine in a speedy fashion, in a seamless and safe environment, and in compliance with the world’s rules, process, and procedures.”

It’s therefore our duty to ensure that we’ve got the right infrastructure in place to be able to facilitate the transportation of medicine in a speedy fashion, in a seamless and safe environment, and in compliance with the world’s rules, process, and procedures.

“To become GDP compliant, you are required to have a dedicated facility for pharma, and that’s why we created and developed this state-of-the-art dedicated facility.  Medicine is sensitive product, it affects the human health and we like to take something like that very seriously. It’s vital for us to ensure that the transportation of medicine is done with the utmost quality of care and safety.”

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His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group with dignitaries at the inauguration of Emirates SkyPharma

Creating a facility of this size and technical capability was no small feat, but one Mr. Sultan sees was worthwhile. “It was a no-brainer for us to make that investment into a facility that has the latest technology in terms of pharma transportation logistics. Investing and making sure that we can challenge all the sort of difficulties we have; the geographical environment, the temperature challenges and be able to overcome these sorts of challenges with a realistic, acceptable solution for a lot of these manufacturers is exactly what we’ve accomplished and done.”

Creating a Hub for Cargo

Geographically, it makes sense to have Dubai as a hub city for cargo. It’s closely linked to the Indian subcontinent, Africa, Asia and many other heavily populated areas and countries that are just hours away. A sticking point was the extreme temperatures in the region, but the opening of SkyCentral and SkyPharma helps ease these worries, and gives customers access to Emirates extensive network.

Today, speed to market and being able to converge your product out there in a regular and speedy manner is part of being competitive in the market. Therefore, coming to Dubai and basing themselves here gives them the edge over their competitors.

“Emirates has a network of more than 150 destinations across the world, direct nonstop, multiple frequency, and substantial capacity,” said Mr. Sultan. “We don’t operate anything less than a 777 today. With 25 ton per flight capacity, that’s almost as good as a freighter going to that destination. That’s the sort of capacity and reach you have into not only major cities, but secondary cities. I think Dubai is perfectly positioned today for successful manufacturing companies who come in and base themselves here. We’ve got the network that is available to a lot of these organizations.”

“Today, speed to market and being able to converge your product out there in a regular and speedy manner is part of being competitive in the market. Therefore, coming to Dubai and basing themselves here gives them the edge over their competitors. I think it’s a solid proposition really. With all the government support that a lot of these companies get if they base themselves here, it just makes perfect business sense. There’s a huge benefit for a lot of the manufactures that they already see. They know their business best, and we’ve already seen a wave of companies coming. There’s already about 40 pharmaceutical companies that are already based here in Dubai. I’m sure they would have done their math and they see the logic of being based here. I think more is probably to come, so it’s a no-brainer. I think we’re just positioned for it perfectly.”

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Aligning with Industry Needs

The industry is continuing to evolve and Mr. Sultan says that it’s critical to look at the dynamics of how things are moving to keep ahead of the curve. “I honestly believe that this the business we’re in is no longer about just transporting normal cargo. It has become so specialized. All the industries across the board, when you really look at all of it, is that we’re being tasked with being able to find a solution for every single vertical. Being able to work with businesses and understand their exact supply chain needs, and being innovative in creating the right fit for a lot of these products is the task being asked of us now.”

You only need to look at the retail market to see how the whole dynamic of business are changing. “Gone are the days of retailers opening stores on main street of cities, it’s evolved into e-commerce,” said Mr. Sultan. “It is something that we all live in everyday, we feel it. The question we must ask is, how do we fit into this whole equation? I think gone are the days when you must send a shipment all the way to the store, e-commerce is going to be the future. Our role transitions into positioning ourselves in becoming a major distribution center. We need to think about how we can deliver a product in the shortest span of time, with the shortest elapsed journey, in a timely fashion, and safely. I think these are the things that we need to start thinking about, and positioning ourselves with these retailers as a true partner. The industry is continuing to evolve, and we have to be open minded about it to adapt and understand exactly what is required by the customer.”

For more information, click the link below for a deeper look at the facility and part of the interview we held with Mr. Sultan.