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.


In particular, the zone features two cooling chambers with different temperatures – one for storing pharmaceuticals at a range of 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit)and 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees) and another for storing even more sensitive products such as vaccines at between 2 degrees Celsius (35 degrees Fahrenheit) and 8 degrees Celsius (46 degrees Fahrenheit). Data loggers are stationed throughout the zone’s key areas and can provide instant, up-to-date reports as needed for customers.

Sudeep Narayan, general manager for cargo at The GMR Group, which holds a majority stake in GHIAL, described the general procedures:

“What we call the nonsterile area is where the cargo is stored prior to build up and unitization in aircraft containers,” Narayan says. “And it’s also the area where cargo is stored prior to clearing customs.”

This is where the two cooling chambers come into play and both feature racking systems to make inspection an easier and faster process.

“The sterile area is where the cargo is stored after customs and regulatory clearance for export and also after unitization and build up in the ULDs, but prior to moving everything from the building to the aircraft,” he added.

The zone also features a ball-matting system for storing the ULDs.

“This is primarily to ease movement and avoid damage to the ULDs,” Narayan adds, “which could weigh between 800 kilograms (1,764 pounds) to 4,000 kilograms (8,818 pounds) once the freight is loaded and ready to move from the terminal to the dollies that transport these units to the aircraft.”

In the last few months of 2011, the airport and cargo managers saw such robust growth trends in use of the Pharma Zone that they’ve already started planning an expansion of the zone.

“The Indian pharmaceutical industry today ranks as the third largest in the world by volume,” says Hemanth DP, GHIAL chief operating officer, “and is expected to touch $20 billion by 2015.”

Some statics underscore the reasons for the Pharma Zone’s early and continued success:

• 70 percent of exports from HYD are pharmaceuticals.

• Around 1,600-1,800 metric tons (1,763- 1,984 tons) of pharmaceuticals are exported every month from HYD.

• Currently only 15 percent of the world’s total pharmaceutical cargo exports are moved under temperature-controlled handling. However, that percentage is bound to increase as international regulatory agencies introduce tighter controls that will encourage the use of such facilities as the HYD Pharma Zone.

“The effort is now on developing the hub-and-spoke model initiated by Lufthansa,” says Vikram R. Jaisinghani, GHIAL chief executive officer. “We are confident that pharmaceutical exports will gradually increase from Hyderabad with the drug manufacturers in other parts of the country using feeder routes to bring their products to Hyderabad for export.”

 

 

Finally, last May Lufthansa Cargo certified GHIAL to be one of its key cargo hubs in South Asia for the transport of temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals. This was India’s first airport to enjoy such status.

Lufthansa currently operates three freighters to the airport every week, with plans to increase the frequency at a later date.

“In the last three years, temperature-sensitive cargo reflected a 40 percent growth year-over-year in Asia while in India it was about 170 percent,” said Christopher Dehio, senior manager for global key account for Lufthansa Cargo, during the certification ceremony. “For us, India is a focus market and a source for cargo. We will be using the facility to help consolidate air cargo from different destinations.”

Lufthansa Cargo typically flies the freight to Frankfurt Airport, and from there the parcels join its global network that connects 300 destinations worldwide.

Paul Smith, chief executive officer of HMACPL says HYD has generated an “impressive business volume” in its cargo business since the Lufthansa certification with almost all of the region’s pharmaceutical companies consigning shipments through the Pharma Zone.

Smith says the United States is the most important market for India’s pharmaceutical exports. Europe comes in second followed by Africa and Russia.

“The pharmaceutical industry has not been affected by the economic downturn,” he adds. “After all, people tend to become sick and there will always be demand for pharmaceuticals.”

Over the years, India has also emerged as one of the world’s leading suppliers of generic drugs particularly for HIV treatment. These drugs are shipped to Africa by chartered flights.

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