India Charter Plane Shipment

India receives vital vaccines despite lockdown

Lockdown in India, cooling chambers running to capacity, canceled flights — and no room for errors on a 54-ton shipment of essential pneumococcal and varicella vaccines. As lockdown drew Mumbai airport to a standstill, temperature-sensitive medicines piled up on steaming hot tarmac reaching over 40 degrees. Yet, coordinated efforts between a leading vaccine manufacturer, Qatar Airways and SkyCell secured the safe delivery of vital vaccines that would otherwise have been degraded or severely delayed.

The medicines which were planned for shipment from Brussels to Mumbai are required to prevent infections that lead to pneumonia, blood poisoning, and meningitis; conditions all considered fatal and known for causing irreversible brain damage.

With previous deliveries of similar products failing in common throw-away packaging, SkyCell’s 2500C container model would enable the medicine to be kept in a controlled temperature environment of between +2 – +8°C for the entirety of their journey. The trouble came when a flight was canceled at the transfer point. While the Covid-19 epidemic closed down lanes to Mumbai airport, life-saving medicines were prevented from reaching people in need. Thus 56 SkyCell hybrid containers were deployed for this critical shipment.

SkyCell set about finding a new route with Qatar Airways and CEVA Logistics to protect the life-saving products. Qatar Airways initiated a speedy response by sourcing a charter aircraft and plane crew and, by harnessing SkyCell’s data-driven risk assessment, which is based on nearly a billion data points, our partners agreed upon a safe lane via Doha to Mumbai.

Data-driven risk assessment

Since the consignee could not pick up the medicine right away due to the lockdown, next came the question, ‘Can we store vulnerable medicine for 72 hours in variable temperature conditions?’, until the medicines could continue their journey. If no alternative solution was found, the medicine would degrade and become unusable, since the temperature outside the container fluctuated between 5° to a whopping 44°C, and all airport cooling rooms remained full.

The risk-assessment from the SkyCell Transport Planner predicted that on this lane, the 72-hour waiting time is possible with the SkyCell hybrid container, even without being placed in a cold storage room for self-charging.

We calculated that the containers would arrive in Mumbai after about 50 hours delivery time, where an ambient temperature of 35°C was expected. At that time the energy level of the container (green line) was predicted to be still at 80%. You can see from the simulation below that the ambient temperature (red line) during the 72 hour storage was would be set between +27°C and +35°C.  Thus the container’s inner temperature (blue line) was predicted to stay between +3°C and +7°C. This means no temperature deviations after 72h storage and a remaining energy level of 10%.

The successful shipment

During the actual shipment, our hybrid containers had automatically charged to full capacity during the interim storage at Doha airport, and kept the medicine at a steady temperature of around 5°C for 72 hours after the arrival at Mumbai airport. See below to compare the steady internal container temperature to the variable outside ambient temperature during transit.

Table showing comparison of steady internal temperature to variable outdoor temperature in India.
The temperature readout shows a steady internal temperature between 4.8°C - 5.6°C (dark blue line) while the ambient temperature (turquoise line) fluctuated between 5°C and 44°C.

The collaboration between the pharma manufacturer, Qatar Airways, and our temperature control tracking team resulted in the direct release of the medicine onto the market, entirely safe and ready to be used by patients in India. Strong collaboration between the pharma manufacturer, airline and container tracking services are part and parcel to a supply chain that sustains demand, especially in unprecedented times. Looking ahead to the annual flu season and potential second waves of coronavirus, we’re adamant that coming together safeguards the lives of patients — for now, and tomorrow.

Prepare your supply chain for the unexpected.