Pharma stays cool with va-Q-tec


Finnair’s agreement with va-Q-tec represents a giant step forward for critical freight handling of pharmaceuticals.

Finnair Cargo’s recently signed agreement with va-Q-tec, a provider of temperature controlled rental containers, is a significant step forward to secure the transportation of temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals as air freight. 

The agreement covers the rental of temperature controlled va-Q-tainer containers for the use of pharmaceutical and biotechnological companies transporting their products in the global Finnair network.

“Pharmaceuticals have been identified by most air cargo carriers as an area of special interest,” explains Pasi Nopanen, vice president of global sales at Finnair Cargo. 

“Pharmaceuticals are a constantly growing industry as a result of rising standards of living in countries where no national healthcare plan was previously in place or where people are starting to suffer from new types of diseases due to changes in lifestyle and environment.”

Major challenge

Most pharmaceuticals require special handling, and especially very strict temperature control during the whole transportation chain. This is a challenge for airline and terminal operations, Nopanen admits. However, following the high standards of the pharma and life science industry airlines can contribute to overall process improvements for handling other kinds of commodities, too. 

“Finnair is an innovative, customer-focused airline with a global network and destinations in pharmaceutical hubs worldwide,” says Katharina Wünsche, partner alliance & business development director at va-Q-tec Ltd. 

“This partnership leads to strong joint opportunities between Finnair and va-Q-tec. Finnair is the pioneer airline in the oneworld airline alliance in signing the Global Rental Agreement with va-Q-tec for temperature-controlled container rentals worldwide. More oneworld members will follow Finnair this year in partnering with va-Q-tec.”

Many forwarders prefer to book va-Q-tainer container rentals directly through the airline at the same time as the flight booking, says Wünsche, so the partnership with Finnair will provide more booking flexibility for all va-Q-tec customers.

Investing in Pharma

Finnair Cargo continues to invest heavily in its pharmaceutical handling capabilities. Measures, so far, have included building temperature-controlled areas in the current Helsinki cargo terminal, investing in thermal blankets for current container equipment, and investing in covered cargo dollies for temperature-controlled units used for ramp transportation at Helsinki. In 2017, Finnair’s new state-of-the-art cargo terminal will open, featuring 3,000 cubic meters of space just for pharma products.

Finnair is also a frontrunner in the new IATA CEIV Pharmaceuticals certification process. “We are in the last stretches in this process, and it seems that we will be the first airline to obtain this certificate,” Nopanen confirms.

“Through the partnership, Finnair can offer temperature-controlled shipments from -70 to +25 degrees Celsius without limitations in its global network,” says Wünsche. 

Temperature is the most critical element. Vaccines, for example, will be destroyed if their temperature is not maintained above 2 degrees Celsius because they will lose their effectiveness. The partnership between Finnair and va-Q-tec provides the required temperature solutions for effective medicines improving patients’ lives worldwide. 

Text by Tim Bird
Product photo by va-Q-tec

Finnair Cargo’s VP Head of Cargo Antti Kuusenmäki (left) and va-Q-tec’s Managing Director Dominic Hyde
Photo by Pasi Nopanen

Published May 21, 2015

Category: Collaboration, Finnair Cargo