A mere 16 months after its inception the umbrella organisation Pharma.Aero signed a MoU with IATA (see CFG 26 March). For the newly-appointed secretary-general Frank Van Gelder this will help to pave the way for global standards in pharmaceutical air cargo logistics.
CFG: What does the MoU with IATA mean to Pharma.Aero?
FVG: The recognition by IATA, a worldwide reference to our industry, is important for Pharma.Aero They took the initiative to sign this MoU to expand their CEIV methodology. Pharma.Aero uses the CEIV as a basis to become a member, which is necessary to launch different projects and become a reference organization within life science airfreight products. You can compare it with playing in the Champions League. To become a member, you need basically to meet a set of standards, CEIV methodology, in order to be involved. Only in this way, we can make up an ideal cross-industry platform. It creates the spirit to discuss things in the future. Also the MOU gives to Pharma.Aero a broader support and recognition, for the projects we have launched, like Digitalisation and CEIV Standardisation. Having Pharmaceutical companies on board, highlights that the pharmaceutical industry would recognise CEIV as a standard, so that the number of audits (by shippers towards logistic services providers, ms) could be reduced.
CFG: Some airports and airlines have not yet joined Aero.Pharma. What added value can you offer them?
FVG: Like any other organisation, Pharma.Aero was founded and set up some time in some office at some location and over the past few months the organization has grown to a global blueprint of different operators and pharma shippers. Everybody is welcome to come to join actively Pharma.Aero. The more airports and airlines join globally, the better. It will reinforce the value to become a leading standard for the industry, and eventually representing reference articles and white papers, with the only goal to improve life science airfreight shipments.
Room for membership expansion
CFG: On the shippers’ side also there is also some room for expanded membership left?
FGV: There are some 4,000 pharmaceutical and biotech companies worldwide. Of the greatest importance is that we have the largest players coming in. One of my aims as secretary-general is to work actively on getting more members from the pharma industry. We are not a commercial organisation. We are focussed on know-how, delivering content and standardisation. We must be able to offer our members as big a forum as possible.
CFG: Aren’t we missing some freight forwarders on the membership list?
FVG: We have 2 important pharma players, Expeditors and DHL Global Forwarding, within our membership. Recently we have welcomed Pentafreight, a premier player in the Indian market.
CFG: Eventually airlines will opt for a specific airport mainly on the basis of cost. You represent one niche only. In what way can you influence their choice?
FVG: It is not our intention to divert more pharma traffic to specific airports. Our aim is to guarantee a better service to wherever pharma is flown. One of our projects in the pipeline is on Lane Validation through global mapping, so that carriers can take the necessary measures to improve their service. Just one is example is our airside tarmac transport benchmark project (ATB), which we are soon about to close. We want the industry to collaborate and improve through speaking each other’s language. We want to collect clearer data and analyses, and set-up broader and wider collaborations. Recently at our board meeting, a number of new projects were identified. Bringing the academic institutions on board is eventually a must for the immediate future, if we want to set-up studies, comparative data and improvements.
Piggybacking as an advisory body
CFG: Can Pharma.Aero play a role in preventing a modal shift from air cargo to other modes?
FVG: Our aim is to do well in what we represent. Air cargo will always remain the most expensive transport mode, deployed mainly when there is no alternative. So it is our duty to ensure that, when we are called upon, the industry is doing its utmost by giving the shipper the best service.
CFG: What about your relationship with TIACA?
FVG: You must look at this in an even broader context. There are a lot of large organisations in which Pharma.Aero is helping and supporting their meetings by fulfilling the role as an advisory body to the content of the meetings. So indeed we welcome when TIACA support us by involving us actively. Our aim is to help and therefore piggyback with larger organizations to strengthen and enlarge the contents
Pharma.Aero as a lable?
CFG: Has Pharma.Aero grown into something as a label?
FVG: I am very cautious to answer that. The most important for us is to get recognition for what we are doing and to know that we are performing well. Over the 16 months since our inception we have had a lot of exposure both in the press and as an advisory body. We have been recognised for the concept, the vision and the mission behind our organisation. A label is not necessary what we want to be. See us more as a cross-industrial platform fostering collaboration between all key players and finally resulting in better standards.
CFG: Has anything changed in the quality of pharma shipping since Pharma.Aero was set up?
FVG: That is difficult to say. There is our white paper on the standardisation of CEIV. We expect a lot from our projects on digitalisation and lane mapping, including mapping of certain data we don’t have today. That will certainly improve the quality. You also mustn’t forget that all our members are working in their respective companies, so the time they can allocate to be part of different projects, is limited. Their input on the other hand, is extremely valuable and contributes to the direct success of Pharma.Aero. the results of the projects and the continuation of them has to be well managed. There comes in a role for the secretary-general to set the pace for these projects to be rolled out, to help and to assist wherever it is needed.
CFG: Has Pharma.Aero been able to identify some sticking points?
FVG: One of the projects we already named, is the ATB project. We are mapping tarmac transport on different airports, in different climate zones and using different technologies. This will lead to a set of best practices. On the other hand, we expect a lot from our larger and on-going digitalisation and lane mapping projects, which will certainly identify things we have not seen so far.
Marcel Schoeters in Brussels