SIA to prioritise cargo capacity for COVID-19 vaccine transportation

SINGAPORE (CNA) – Singapore Airlines (SIA) will prioritise cargo capacity to transport COVID-19 vaccines when they become available, said the national carrier yesterday.

It will prepare seven Boeing 47-400 freighters for such operations, SIA said in a media release, adding that passenger planes will also be deployed where needed.

“SIA will make available cargo space on its flights and accord uplift priority to COVID-19 vaccine shipments across the key vaccine trade lanes,” said the airline. To ensure that it is ready to transport the COVID-19 vaccines, SIA said it has been “actively engaging” with various stakeholders across the supply chain and in pharmaceutical export markets over the last few months.

SIA has signed master leasing agreements with key cold chain container providers to ensure that the airline has access to sufficient temperature-controlled containers to handle large volumes of vaccines.

Tracking devices have also been certified for use, the airline added, providing vaccine producers and their logistics service providers with “complete end-to-end visibility and tracking of the shipments (particularly temperature readings) throughout the journey”.

Moderna’s COVID vaccine, for instance, needs to be transported and stored at -20 degrees Celcius. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine must be kept at -70 degrees Celcius and can be kept in a regular fridge for just five days.

The airline noted that in the last financial year, SIA Cargo carried about 22,000 tonnes of pharmaceutical shipments across its network.

“Singapore’s geographical location, coupled with SIA’s extensive network connectivity and the strong pharmaceutical handling capabilities at Singapore Changi Airport, positions it well as a key transit hub for the transportation and distribution of pharmaceuticals,” it added.

Senior Vice President Cargo of SIA Chin Yau Seng described the transportation and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines as “one of the biggest and most important supply chain challenges of our generation”.

“SIA has a well-established track record of safely and reliably transporting critical pharmaceutical shipments,” he added.

A Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 plane parked on the tarmac at Changi International Airport in Singapore. PHOTO: AFP