Schiphol's Cargo Community starts vaccine readiness group: Preparing for COVID-19 vaccines

Collaboration brings together members from across the cool supply chain, Dutch Customs, and Ministry of Health to match the global distribution needs for billions of vaccine doses

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol’s Pharma Cargo Community is collaborating to ensure the temperature-controlled supply chain is ready for the safe and efficient transportation of COVID-19 vaccines.

A taskforce led by Air Cargo Netherlands (ACN), Schiphol Cargo and Air France KLM Martinair Cargo, including shippers, pharma producers, forwarders, airlines, ground handlers and trucking companies have met to kick start work on up to four possible ‘vaccine scenarios’, based on different temperature ranges.

The Vaccine Readiness Group will host a round table on the 29th of September, open to the entire Schiphol Cargo Community, as well as Dutch Customs and the Dutch Ministry of Health, to discuss methods of mapping capacity, from ground handlers to airlines, as well as back-up solutions.

Strong pharma community

“We have a strong pharma and air cargo community at Schiphol, we know what we are talking about, and we will be ready for what is coming,” said Maarten van As, Managing Director, ACN.

“As an industry interest group, part of the supply chain, we have a social responsibility to participate and do our part in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine – it is not just about the Netherlands, it is about getting the vaccine distributed at speed to the world.

“Many modernised countries will benefit from local production centres. The air freight industry will need to play a role for those countries which have to receive the vaccines, antibodies, or drugs from afar.”

Safe secure, reliable trade lane

Ferry van der Ent, Director of Business Development, Schiphol Cargo said; “The most important thing is to provide a safe, secure, and reliable trade lane, especially when there is a peak in demand, so that we can guarantee the vaccines are tamper-free, with no temperature excursions and handled properly.”

“The Dutch Civil Aviation Authority is also very supportive in granting permissions for COVID-19 related ad-hoc flights.

“We are now focusing on a fast and swift handling process on the tarmac, getting the vaccines as soon as possible to the end-customer via the distribution channels, rather than storing them at the airport.

“As a back-up option we have to be prepared to collaborate across all modes and with everyone in the supply chain and explore all options.

“That could mean collaborating with other Good Distribution Practices (GDP) centres and facilities and connecting with our colleagues in ocean, for example at the nearby Amsterdam and Rotterdam harbours where they have GDP-certified cooling areas and lots of capacity.”

Collaboration with Customs

Under the initiative, the community will continue to work closely with Customs and governmental bodies to ensure faster Customs release and priority Customs checks.

There will be a focus on ensuring the proper distribution of storage to guarantee sufficient cool room capacity.

This could include pre-warnings and data exchange, as well as increased security and strict handover protocols.

Community members will look at ways to speed up handovers between parties in the cool chain, including last minute delivery, quick pick-up, and airside delivery or pick up.

Thinking as a community

“We have a responsibility as an airline to make sure the vaccines get to the right place and we need to consider the whole journey, especially the last mile and especially for places where it can be a challenge to get the last mile right,” said Enrica Calonghi, Global Head of Pharmaceutical Logistics at Air France KLM Martinair Cargo.

“We still don't know the how, the where to, the where from, or the when. “We have to work collaboratively and that is one positive that 2020 has brought us.

“It means that as a community, we should not just think about capacity in the air, but also on the ground, from the trucks, to the warehouse space, and we have to think as a community.”

To find out more about joining the meeting on the 29th of September 2020, contact