Pharmaceutical Hub To The World

Just four years after welcoming its first flight, Rajiv Gandhi International Airport is becoming the world’s pharmacy for temperature-sensitive shipments of crucial medicine.


Hyderabad is India’s pharmaceutical capital. The city’s so-called “Genome Valley” spreads out over more than 600 square kilometers ((232 square miles) and provides companies such as USP, Novartis, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, Agilent, Biological E Limited, Shantha Biotechnics, Bharath Biotech, Matrix Laboratories and Krebs Biochemical with needed research, training, collaboration and manufacturing activities.

More than 100 companies operate out of the Genome Valley today.

The city’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (HYD) further strengthens this growing, local enterprise with strong, global footprints. In just four years of operation, HYD created a strong pull for foreign cargo carriers as demand for capacity to transport the region’s array of pharmaceutical products increases.

For one, Germany’s Lufthansa Cargo, the world’s largest cargo carrier, recently established a strong presence at HYD, particularly in the niche area of temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical shipments:

Lufthansa Cargo and HYD management firm, GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd. (GHIAL), set the stage in December 2010 when the two companies inked a memorandum of understanding aimed at jointly developing the airport’s existing cargo facility to handle temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical shipments.

“The transport of temperature-sensitive cargo places great requirements on airlines as well as on airports,” said Martin Schlingensiepen, Lufthansa Cargo’s vice president of product management at the signing ceremony. “While outside temperatures at airports may range from minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit) to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), the temperature inside the containers may only fluctuate minimally in order not to damage such sensitive freight.”

The MoU served as a framework for both sides to set up modern infrastructure and consistent procedures at HYD to provide reliable, temperature-controlled transportation solutions.

Under the terms of the MoU, for example, Lufthansa Cargo agreed to station its own fleet of special cooling containers called “Opticoolers” at HYD.

Lufthansa’s Opticoolers are able to maintain a permanent temperature as low as 2 Celsius (35 degrees Fahrenheit). What’s new about the container is the compressor technology. All the Opticooler needs is electricity to charge the accumulators embedded in the device’s floor. The charging process takes between five to eight hours. Once fully charged, the batteries can run for 100 hours.

The containers are controlled by external temperature sensors for recording the ambient temperature, several sensors for the freight compartment in order to maintain the required temperature range and one temperature sensor in the technical compartment of each unit.

In turn, GHIAL agreed to streamline customs and other regulatory procedures at HYD to guarantee less bureaucratic red tape and, more importantly, build a dedicated climate-controlled site within its existing cargo facility.

By January 2011 Hyderabad Menzies Air Cargo Pvt. Ltd. (HMACPL) had accomplished just that and officially opened the “Pharma Zone” within its existing Air Cargo Complex at HYD.

HMACPL, a joint venture between international ground handler Menzies Aviation and GHIAL, originally built the cargo facility in 2008 and has managed cargo operations ever since. Since the first plane landed at HYD on March 14, 2008, overall cargo activity has increased by more than 40 percent.

The Pharma Zone is India’s first such airport-based, temperature-controlled facility. It takes up 1,400 square meters (15,069 square feet) inside the 14,330-square-meter (154,246-square-foot) building and is designed to handle 30,000 metric tons (33,069 tons) of pharmaceutical shipments annually.

Dedicated truck docks for acceptance, floor level weighing provisions at acceptance and seamless cold chain facility during the entire handling process are some of the highlights.

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