Introduction to the Pharma Sea Freight Working Group
During the 2015 IQPC Cool Chain & Controlled Room Temperature conference in Frankfurt, a meeting of over 500 industry experts highlighted the huge gaps in the perspectives and focus of the pharmaceutical industry regarding their use of sea freight as an alternative to air freight. It showed that some companies were excelling using this mode whilst others did not know where to start. Discussion and debate were extensive but it was evident that there were gaps between parties, with knowledge fragmentary whilst “answers” simply lead to more, and deeper, questions.
It was clear there was a need to bring expertise from across the supply chain together, especially the key stakeholders from pharmaceutical manufacturing, freight forwarding, shipping line, port operation and any other parties involved.
That is exactly what the Cold Chain IQ Pharma Sea Freight Working Group set about doing, with the following mission statement:
- “This working group brings together the key stakeholders to drive unification and best practice in temperature controlled sea freight for pharmaceuticals.”
The global pharmaceutical logistics market was valued at $70 billion in 2015. It is amongst the most regulated and expensive cargo business in the world today. Governments, and other bodies tasked with the procurement of treatments and therapies, are all pressuring pharmaceutical manufacturers to reduce costs yet toughening transport regulations are driving costs up.
Pharmaceuticals have traditionally moved by air freight but the price reductions described above, as well as the impact of generic substitution and biosimilar products, means that a considerable number of products can no longer sustain air freight transportation costs so alternatives are being considered.
Having successfully implemented a move from air to sea for a major generics manufacturer, I was challenged by Cold Chain IQ to lead the key stakeholders and subject matter experts. The aim of this group would be to understand the challenges which each party faces and see what could be done to overcome these.
Initial meetings were held and these allowed all parties to begin to understand the complexities which each of them faced and it was decided that there was no “one size fits all” solution but that a best practice guide might be the best way forward.
The initial report from the working group was presented at the 2016 IQPC Temperature Controlled Logistics Europe conference in January and was well received. Feedback from the event was positive but highlighted areas still needing more work, for example carrier liability levels. Therefore, the Sea Freight Working Group will continue its mission to provide a best practice guide enabling pharmaceutical manufacturers, and their logistics providers, to make the change to sea freight where this is appropriate.
Author: Mark Edwards, Chair of the Pharma Sea Freight Working Group and Managing Director of Modalis logistics consultancy