Hong Kong airport becomes sixth in the world to be certified to handle delicate medical cargo
A 5.3 hectare site has also been set aside to build a ‘premium logistics warehouse’ for the high-value goods
Hong Kong’s airport has become the sixth in the world to earn accreditation for handling delicate pharmaceutical goods, an area of economic potential that has grown by 12 per cent in volume annually for the past four years.
The airport will now heavily invest in infrastructure and equipment to expand its cold storage solutions and maintain its grip as the world’s busiest air cargo hub.
The transport of vaccines and medicines by air is seen as one area with room for expansion in the city: between 2005 and 2016, the global trade volume for such products grew by 5.4 per cent per year – three times faster than overall growth in the air trade.
But ensuring the stability of an entire supply chain for temperature-sensitive cargo is often challenging. In 2014, the International Air Transport Association launched an accreditation programme to certify cargo operators in handling such goods.
“Hong Kong International Airport has seen an annual growth of 12 per cent in terms of the volume of temperature-sensitive medicines handled,” said Cissy Chan Ching-sze of the Airport Authority. “We expect the growth to speed up to 16 per cent from now until 2023.”
On Monday, the authority announced that all seven operators had been accredited by the Centre of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics (CEIV Pharma), becoming only the sixth airport in the world, after those in Brussels, Madrid, Paris, Miami and Singapore.
Chan said the local operators already had expertise in handling such goods, but the certification would now make pharmaceutical firms more confident to use their services.
To prepare the airport for increased demand for the services, the authority will spend HK$16 million (US$2.04 million) for the purchase of 21 additional cool dollies – or air-conditioned cargo containers – on top of 12 already in operation.
A 5.3-hectare (13.1 acres) site at Kwo Lo Wan on the reclaimed island of Chek Lap Kok has also been earmarked for the construction of a “premium logistics warehouse”. The warehouse will handle high-value cargo such as medicines.
Chan said the hub, measuring 4 million sq ft in floor area, would be built with automation in mind. A tender is under way to invite interested parties to build and operate the facility, which is expected to start running by 2023.
The proposals are part of the authority’s plans to help Hong Kong’s airport retain its top spot in terms of air cargo handled. Last year the hub made history by becoming the first in the world to ship over 5 million tonnes of goods.