Brussels Airport: the preferred European pharma gateway
The various companies at BRUcargo, the cargo area of Brussels Airport, daily transport countless goods, including pharmaceutical products such as medicines and vaccines. “The pharmaceutical industry in Belgium is one of the most important centres of growth in the economy,” says Catherine Rutten, CEO of pharma.be1. To address this growth, BRUcargo has, in recent years, specialised in the transport of these temperature-sensitive goods - “Innovation in the pharmaceutical sector goes hand-in-hand with innovation in the logistics sector”2.
More than one tenth (11.3%) of Belgian exports is generated by the pharmaceutical industry, and accounts for around 40.7 billion euros in vaccines and medicines in just one year3. A large amount of this is imported and exported by air. Brussels Airport thus plays a very important role at European level as turntable and consolidation point for pharmaceutical air cargo shipments. The airport is a crucial link in the transport process, a logistics chain of around five to ten companies, whereby the quality of pharmaceutical products has to be guaranteed at all times.
View this video and learn more about the journey that every medicine takes: from production to delivery to the patient.
CEIV quality certificate: Centre of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics
In August 2014, the cargo community at Brussels Airport obtained, as first in the world, the CEIV Pharma certificate. The airport created this quality programme in collaboration with IATA (the International Air Transport Association), to guarantee a high-quality distribution of pharmaceutical products throughout the entire logistics process.
Catherine Rutten: “The key word in our industry is inter-modality. Transport by land as well as transport by air or by sea are important. The different modes of transport are complementary. For airports, including Brussels Airport, the award of the IATA/CEIV certificate was an important step. This label guarantees an unbroken cold chain, whereby specifically trained persons handle the transport of pharmaceutical products. This label has e.g. made it possible to rapidly ship a candidate vaccine against the Ebola virus to Africa.”
Airside pharma transporter
Brussels Airport distinguishes itself internationally for the transport of products that demand an unbroken cold chain through its specialised infrastructure. The ‘airside pharma transporter’, a refrigerated trailer specially designed by the airport cargo community, ensures that no temperature fluctuations occur during the transport of pharmaceutical shipments, with a guarantee range from 5°C to 25°C. The monitoring of the temperature is of crucial importance. If this fluctuates excessively during the transport of medicines, products may become unusable and not reach the patient.
The development of this refrigerated trailer for use on tarmac addresses the specific needs and demands of the pharmaceutical sector, and distinguishes Brussels Airport as preferred airport for temperature-sensitive transport in Europe. Furthermore, it is more environmentally friendly and considerably cheaper that other means of transport with refrigeration suitable for use on the tarmac. Currently nine transporters are in use at the airport. The refrigerated trailer was designed in collaboration with all partners at BRUcargo, and in consultation with several major pharmaceutical manufacturers with production and distribution centres in Belgium. pharma.be is the umbrella organisation of more than 130 innovative pharmaceutical companies that are active in Belgium4.
Catherine Rutten: “Belgium is a global centre for pharmaceuticals. The country hosts 15 headquarters of pharmaceutical companies, 32 production sites, and 12 universities or research centres. These players employ around 35,250 people. Logically, the eco-system has had to adapt to this and aviation has taken the lead.
Year after year, increasing amounts have been invested in more secure and sophisticated means of transport. Just think of transport of biological medicines that must be stored under very strict conditions. A specialised temperature controlled logistics infrastructure has consequently made its appearance at the airports.
Indeed, the various transport companies have met the demand for more advanced technologies. That was of essential importance for guaranteeing the worldwide export of pharmaceutical medicines.
What is so magical about all this is that innovation in one sector has a positive effect on the others, a fine example of the innovation circle. It ensures that everybody continues to innovate, to shift boundaries, and so we have high-quality Belgian expertise that leads the way.
All this was one of the conclusions from the pharma.be Dialoog 2017.”
Did you know?
Air cargo distinguishes itself by its rapid international transport during emergencies, such as natural disasters. High-quality medicines can be quickly brought on site by aircraft, with a high guarantee of quality.
1pharma.be – General association of the pharmaceutical industry - Pharma figures 2016: Belgium, a growing pharma hub.
2pharma.be – General association of the pharmaceutical industry - Programme pharma.be event 7 June 2016.
3pharma.be – General association of the pharmaceutical industry - Programme pharma.be event 7 June 2016.
4pharma.be – General Association of the pharmaceutical industry