Attention to detail

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Finnair Cargo has responded to special requirements by investing in training and resources for handling seafood and pharmaceutical shipments. 

The range and variety of items stowed in the hold by Finnair Cargo are almost uncountable. For some goods, the care and preparation are especially demanding. Seafood and pharmaceutical products, for example, have become increasingly common in Finnair Cargo loads, and the transport of both requires special expertise.

“Recently we have been investing significantly in processes along with training our personnel, as well as raising overall awareness of our partner companies who sell and handle the products,” says Roman Lübitch, business development manager at Finnair Cargo. 

Both seafood and pharmaceutical products require special handling, where maintaining the required temperature for a shipment is pivotal. Such attention to detail is especially important for pharmaceutical products, and Finnair Cargo’s customer companies expect nothing less than a high level of expertise.

“If pharmaceuticals are handled wrongly it can have a direct impact on people's health. The main reason why we concentrate on training and processes is because even if you have superb facilities and equipment, it is people who make decisions and who have the responsibility for shipments being handled in the right way.” 

Tight controls

Seafood and pharmaceutical shipments are distinguished from other general loads by two particular factors: the need for strict temperature control and the adherence to tight, precise schedules for moving the cargo. 

“You can leave basic cargo on the apron outside the terminal for an hour and nothing will happen to it. But if you leave seafood or pharmaceutical shipments outside even for 20 minutes, the risk of deterioration is very high,” says Lübitch. Temperature control is an essential factor as in Helsinki outside temperatures can range up to 30 degrees either side of freezing. 

“We have special facilities which maintain stable temperatures. For instance, we have a facility just for frozen shipments. We also have weather-protected dollies where shipments are carried from the terminal to the planes and vice versa.” 

Dialogue with customers is crucial for maintaining a competitive edge. “The only way is to strive to do things better than others, and to be sure that we are doing the right things,” summarizes Lübitch. “We are continuously holding  dialogue with the pharmaceutical companies and listening to their expectations. In addition to investing in processes and people we are investing in facilities and equipment to make sure that they meet customers' expectations.”

A question of standards

The lack of recognized, industry-wide standards for handling pharmaceutical shipments represents one of the main challenges for Finnair Cargo for this kind of freight.

“Standards are set either by the shippers or by large forwarding companies,” explains Lübitch. “Usually each has separate audits which might take more than a year to complete. Standards might also differ from one company to other. It’s a challenge for us.”

Recently IATA has been developing its own certificate for pharma shipments. Finnair Cargo is the first airline to participate in the certification assessment – other companies undergoing the process are handling agents. “We are hoping that it will help unify different requirements set by shippers and forwarding companies.”

The recent investments have been targeted in response to a better understanding of the market, notes Lübitch, but the process of development will continue. The lack of industry standards for cargo in the seafood sector came as a surprise, although the standards set by customers are stringent and require close attention. 

“With respect to pharmaceutical products, it’s fortunate that there is an attempt across the market to create a single standard, and the work that we have been doing is aligned with this.”

Text by Tim Bird
Photo by iStock

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Published October 29, 2014

Category: Finnair Cargo

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