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Certification as pharmaceutical freight hub gives Miami International Airport advantage

In 2015, the International Air Transport Association certified Miami International Airport as a pharmaceutical freight hub. At the time, it was only the second certified hub in the world (and the first in the U.S.). The designation means the airport has the infrastructure, personnel and processes to safely and efficiently handle shipping of this high-value, often temperature-sensitive and sometimes time-sensitive cargo.

MIA got the certification, in part, because it was already an important hub for handling perishables, such as flowers, produce and seafood. Many local businesses were already well-versed in “cold chain” — the infrastructure and handling requirements for temperature-sensitive items. In fact, there are 451,885 square feet of refrigerated storage facilities on the airport’s property.

Cold-chain integrity in air shipping is a major issue for the pharmaceutical industry. Medications whose temperature drops above or below a certain range often must be discarded, and the air transport association says more than half of problematic temperature deviations happen at airports and airlines. It pegged the international economic loss from the deviations at between $2.5 billion and $12.5 billion.

In hopes of growing the overall international pharmaceutical air-shipping sector, MIA partnered with Brussels Airport, which was the first to earn pharma hub certification, to found the Pharma Aero association in 2016.

Meanwhile, logistics-related businesses in Miami-Dade have begun earning their own certifications from the air transport association’s Center of Excellence for Independent Validators. Chile-based LATAM Cargo, which has a major hub at MIA, was the first airline in the Americas to earn the pharmaceutical certification, but others have followed, including DHL Global Forwarding and Swissport.

All told, four airlines, two ground handling companies, two international freight forwarders and a risk management logistics company have earned the certification.

County and airport officials are confident that the investments in certification, along with heavy marketing of MIA’s pharmaceutical supply chain expertise, will pay off in jobs and trade. Total value of trade through MIA was higher during 2016 than in 2015 but dropped a bit in 2017, largely because of a fall in exports.

 

Read more in our May issue.

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