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Forwarders see cargo bumped as vaccine shipments take off

     Air cargo loading

This is the moment the world has anxiously been waiting for – the arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine.  The recent announcements authorizing its use in Canada, the U.S. and UK are now followed by a massive logistics challenge to get the vaccines to each country’s immunization sites.

The logistics of flying billions of temperature-sensitive COVID-19 vaccines around the world will be complex.  The International Air Transport Association (IATA) stated that the size of the vaccine delivery operation is enormous, estimating that, “just providing a single dose to 7.8 billion people would fill 8,000 B747 cargo aircraft”.  This is all happening in a time of diminished cargo capacity in the global air transport industry.  With the severe downturn in passenger traffic, airlines have downsized networks and put many aircraft into remote long term storage.

The additional demand for capacity to fly COVID-19 vaccines is expected to have a significant effect on airfreight rates going into 2021.  There are also some indications that vaccine shipments may be given priority over less urgent or lower-yielding cargo, potentially pushing up rates as the vaccines begin to ship.  While it is not expected that we will see the same rate levels as in the spring of 2020, it is likely airfreight rates will stay at elevated levels throughout 2021.  Originally, it was feared a rush to fly the vaccine would overwhelm air carriers, but the airfreight industry is confident that the significant volumes will be manageable.

The technology, strategy and operations excellence needed will be on a scale not seen before, with some logistics industry specialists calling it “the most complex logistical challenge ever faced”.

For more information, contact Debbie McGuire, Manager – Freight Solutions.

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