Brussels Airport among top European pharma hubs
Last year, twice as many pharmaceutical products were exported via Brussels Airport as in 2015. This makes Belgium the second largest exporter of medicines and health products in Europe, after Germany in absolute volume and after Ireland when the export is related to population size. “The competition copies our way of working”, says Arnaud Feist, CEO of Brussels Airport Company. “That only encourages us to build on our lead.”
Every year, around 40 billion euro in pharmaceutical specialities is exported from Belgium, accounting for more than 10% of Belgian export. In a few years time, the cargo of these products has almost doubled to 37.000 tons in 2018. Last year, the airport processed 32% more pharmaceuticals than the year before. Belgium thus accounts for 12,3% of European pharmaceutical exports. Half of the export is destined for countries outside the EU.
Airside Pharma Transporter
In order to meet the high logistical requirements of the pharmaceutical companies, the airport developed a special vehicle: the Airside Pharma Transporter. The companies don’t want their valuable medicines and vaccines to spend a long time on a hot tarmac.
The transporter, in which the temperature can be kept constant by means of solar panels, guarantees that the cold chain is not broken. Brussels now has nine of these transporters and CEO Feist wants to commercialize the vehicle and sell it to other airports, also because there is demand for it in the rest of the world.
It is just one example of the efforts and investments Brussels Airport is making and has made to win over the pharmaceutical industry. “The logistical requirements for pharmaceutical products are high, because production is also a demanding process”, says Catherine Rutten, CEO of the umbrella organization, Pharma.be. “It is important that the quality efforts also continue after the products have left the factory.”
App and Cloud applications
The innovation of Brussels Airport goes further than the transporter. The airport has also developed an app that allows customers to check the temperature in each part of the transport chain in real time (a vaccine that is not well transported because the cold chain is broken, loses its effect).
Cloud applications have also been developed for the digital processing of transport. Together with Pharma.be, staff members of the companies involved were trained. The airport will also invest 100 million euro in the construction of state-of-the-art logistics buildings of 100.000 square metres in the cargo zone. Half of this will be used to handle temperature-sensitive goods, such as pharmaceuticals.
The first to meet strict standards
Pharmaceutical logistics is a growing branch for aviation. Worldwide, the majority of pharmaceutical exports now take place via shipping, but air transport is rapidly gaining importance.
The fact that the airport in Zaventem is at the forefront of air transport of pharmaceutical products is partly because in 2014 it was the first in the world to meet strict standards for pharmaceutical transport of the international aviation organization, IATA. The cold chain is broken most often when the cargo is at an airport. “This certification was an important step for us”, says Feist.
Brussels Airport also cooperates with other airports that specialize in the transport of pharmaceutical products. Agreements have recently been concluded with the airports of Hong Kong and Montevideo (Uruguay), which meet the same quality standards.
In October 2016, Brussels Airport also started, together with Miami Airport, Pharma.Aero, a platform with like-minded airports. Singapore and Miami are also members and more and more countries are joining this network. Feist: “This is how we ensure that the entire transport process is carried out to the highest standards.”