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MIA launches pharmaceutical transport certification program

Miami International Airport, already a major hub for pharmaceutical imports and exports, is the first U.S. airport to partner with the International Air Transport Association’s global certification program for handling and shipping pharmaceutical products.

To avoid spoilage of sensitive pharmaceutical products and boost international trade, IATA, the international airline trade association representing about 260 air carriers, is providing assessment and training in cold-chain pharmaceutical transportation to certify participants in MIA’s air cargo supply chain, including air cargo carriers, logistics companies, truckers, freight forwarders and warehouses.

Many pharmaceutical products — such as temperature-sensitive drugs, vaccines and blood products — require precise temperature controls from the time they leave a manufacturing facility until the moment they reach their destinations at hospitals, laboratories and research centers in the U.S. and overseas.

The partnership bolsters a growing segment of MIA’s air cargo portfolio. The value of pharmaceutical imports and exports moving through MIA grew by 79 percent between 2010 and 2014, from about $1.8 billion in 2010 to nearly $3.3 billion in 2014, according to figures supplied by MIA. The figure does not include goods passing through the airport in-transit cargo.

MIA was the No. 1 U.S. airport last year in moving international air cargo, and No. 10 worldwide, handling 2.17 million tons of cargo in 2014 valued at $61.6 billion.

“MIA’s pharma freight hub certification by IATA brands the airport to pharmaceutical manufacturers as a trusted industry leader that transports their products in accordance with global best practices,” said Emilio T. González, director and CEO of Miami-Dade Aviation Department. “The designation also highlights our leadership as a safe and efficient logistics hub for these high-value, temperature-sensitive and often life-saving drugs and medicines. With MIA already ranked as the busiest airport in the country for both international freight and perishable imports, this prestigious certification is expected to significantly increase the $3.3 billion in pharma traffic we already handle and position us among the top pharma markets in the U.S.”

Said Jason Sinclair, manager of IATA’s corporate communications for the Americas. “This IATA certification program speaks to its sophistication within the market here, and the sophistication of the companies that work with MIA.”

IATA also is working with companies at 19 other international airports outside the U.S. for certification.

While MIA’s international pharma trade has grown, the global air cargo share of global pharmaceutical product transport declined from 17 percent to 13 percent between 2000 and 2013, according to IATA documents.

This occurred even as the global pharma market for temperature-management services was booming. The decrease was due mainly to a lack of standardization, compliance, accountability and transparency, the airline association said, that resulted in billions of dollars in annual losses. More than 50 percent of all temperature failures occur while pharma products are in the hands or airlines and airports.

The many companies involved in Miami’s air cargo pharmaceutical trade include Consolidated Aviation Services, Brinks, DHL Express, American Airlines Cargo, LAN Cargo, Centurion Cargo, FedEx and UPS.

As of now, five companies have agreed to participate in the certification program: Amerijet, Brinks, Centurion Cargo, Consolidated Aviation Services (CAS), and Liaison CAN/US.

These companies have developed rigorous systems for handling and monitoring delicate pharmaceuticals during shipment, including temperature-controlled cargo planes, warehouses and transit systems. The IATA process seeks to identify any problems in the overall logistics system that could affect pharmaceuticals an doffer training in best practices.

“This IATA certification process allows us to provide a high level of cargo handling for or customers, maintaining the cold chain throughout the entire process and keeping the product at exactly the temperature it requires,” said Miami-based Bill Khoury, vice president of business development in Latin America and the Caribbean at Consolidated Aviation Services, a company that handles, transports and warehouses merchandise, including pharmaceuticals, nationwide. Consolidated’s customers are airlines and freight forwarders who move pharmaceuticals, Khoury said, “but our real customers are you and me, and we need to get these products to customers in perfect condition.”

To confront international failures in air transport of pharmaceuticals, IATA set up its Center for Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics (CEIV) to assess facilities, operations, equipment and staff involved in the pharmaceutical supply chain, and provide training where needed.

CEIV uses the standards set by pharmaceutical manufacturers, U.S. and international regulations on handling pharmaceuticals and best practices to achieve global standardization, according to IATA. CEIV grants its certification to individual companies.

MIA’s international trade community includes nearly 1,400 licensed customs brokers and freight forwarders, as well as local and multinational companies specializing in international trade and logistics, finance, imports and exports and trade law, according to MIA. Greater Miami also has more than 100 consulates, foreign trade offices and binational chambers of commerce.

The writer can be reached at josephmannjr@gmail.com.

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