With the Narendra Modi government hoping to start distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine across India in the coming weeks, airports across the country are bracing themselves to handle what will possibly be the largest and most critical vaccine distribution programme in recent history.
The government is already considering ways in which it will work with the aviation sector for smooth transportation of the vaccine, which will require temperature-controlled storage and transportation infrastructure. Mumbai’s international airport, which has Asia’s largest temperature-controlled export pharma centre, has already started strengthening its cargo services, and Delhi and Hyderabad are following suit.
Here’s how some key airports across India are prepping to ensure smooth transportation of Covid-19 vaccine:
Delhi: The Delhi International Airport has two cargo terminals with world-class infrastructure that includes a GDP (Good Distribution Practice) certified temperature-controlled facility for handling temperature-sensitive cargo.
With the capacity to handle over 150,000 metric ton cargo per annum, the airport has cool chambers ranging from -20 degrees to 25 degrees celsius. The airport also has “cool dollies” at the airside that ensure an unbroken cool chain during temperature-sensitive cargo movement between terminal and aircraft.
“Delhi Airport has acted as a hub to distribute millions of PPE kits across the country. Hence, it is a time tested hub for the distribution of critical time-sensitive shipments,” the Delhi airport spokesperson told Quartz.
Hyderabad: The city’s GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo (GHAC) is also a key stakeholder in the transportation of the Covid-19 vaccine.
The airport is equipped with facilities such as modern temperature-sensitive pharma and vaccine storage and processing zones. It also has India’s largest storage facility for various kinds of air cool containers such as envirotainer, c-safe, unicooler, and vaqtainer within the premises. GHAC is also upgrading its infrastructure to double the capacity on both landside and airside to handle the upcoming surge in volumes, as per the airport’s spokesperson.
Just like the Delhi airport, GHAC also has “cool chambers” in which temperature can be set as low as -20 degrees celsius. “The terminal is equipped with various temperature zones from -20 degrees Celsius to 25 degrees Celsius and with state-of-the-art equipment and cool containers to cater to product-specific requirements,” said a Hyderabad airport spokesperson.
Mumbai: Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) has Asia’s largest temperature-controlled Export Pharma Excellence Centre with an annual handling capacity of 350,000 tons, spread over an area of 4,000 square meters.
CSMIA also plans to create a dedicated task force to facilitate vaccine transportation. This team will undertake advance planning and collaborate with all stakeholders such as other airports, airline customers, supply chain partners, regulatory and governmental bodies, and vaccine distributors.
Pune: At present, the cargo facility at Pune airport has the capacity to handle 1.5 ton of cargo on a daily basis. But the airport at Pune is planning to upgrade for smooth and efficient distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine. The airport authorities are also in touch with the city’s Serum Institute of India and other stakeholders to plan a change in the existing infrastructure.
“It all depends on the state and central governments to decide the process of distribution and transportation of the vaccine…If there’s a need we will look into enhancing the existing infra for smooth transportation of vaccine,” an airport official told The Times of India on Dec. 7.
Other stakeholders for vaccine transportation
Apart from the airports, domestic airlines are also gearing up to participate in the distribution and transportation process of the Covid-19 vaccine in India.
Earlier this month, SpiceJet announced that it will deploy its freighter division SpiceXpress which has the capability to transport extremely sensitive drugs and vaccines in controlled temperatures ranging from -40°C to 25°C. SpiceXpress has a dedicated fleet of 17 cargo aircraft and is capable of flying cargo to both domestic as well as international destinations.
The airline also is equipped to provide other benefits such as a network of warehouses equipped with deep freezers to enable change of cool packs and ground vehicles and containers to help transport sensitive cargo.
Another private airline, IndiGo is also planning to participate in the Covid-19 shipping. “In line with our business model and cost leadership strategy, we are happy to evaluate the shipment of the Covid-19 vaccines on board our aircraft and will promise to contribute to the best of our abilities,” the airline said.