COVID19 Vaccines and the Supply Chain Challenges

The horror of the pandemic and the aviation sector! One of the most affected sectors still happens to the aviation and air travel sector.

The COVID-19 pandemic – the tough, unprecedented, horror for everyone globally today! Every day we must flawlessly follow the right measures to minimise the risks for ourselves, our people, our business, and the society. But when it comes to decision making, then there are no short-cuts and we are left with extreme uncertainty on personal, professional, and social fronts.

As the pandemic started to show its exponential contagiousness starting early this year, it compelled lockdowns and an unprecedented hindrance to most businesses. One of the most affected sectors still happens to the aviation and air travel sector.

The air cargo temporary recovery!

Globalisation and trade liberalisation between nations happens to be the Pandora’s box for air cargo movement. The movement of goods by air fortunately is not as affected as its counterpart, that is, passenger air travel. There was an obvious slump this year in air cargo volumes in an year-on-year comparison. But the dip is not as bad as we all expected it to be. As per IATA, the global figures of air cargo movement YTD until July this year is only 13% lower than the previous year. In the beginning of the pandemic outspread, we expected this number to be much more on the negative side of the graph.

The challenges being faced to cater to air cargo demand

However, the dismay does not end here. We can see that the demand of certain goods has increased which mainly comprises of the pharmaceuticals, vaccines, medicines, medical, surgical, hospital goods and so on. Also, the demand of the other commodities has also picked up momentum with the re-opening of the major economies of the world. While the ocean freight and capacity has remained steady, the air freight capacity has drastically gone down.

The major reason for this is the non-operation of scheduled passenger flights to most routes across the globe. This has led to a serious reduction in belly capacity. It is only the freighters/ cargo only aircrafts, passenger aircraft converted to freighters, and the ferry passenger flights that are in operation based on demand. This is also directly proportional to the costs incurred. The lesser is the capacity, the higher remains the air freight.

Another reason is that due to the lack of passenger travel, the wide-bodied passenger aircrafts with larger belly capacity are mostly grounded and non-operational. The carriers are managing with the narrow-bodied aircrafts as per passenger demands on feasible routes to save, landing, parking, fuel, and other operational costs. However, there are serious limitations on these narrow-bodied aircrafts for goods that require special handling like temperature control, unitised loading, heavy goods load-ability, big-sized cargo and so on. While a wide-bodied aircraft with a good payload can carry anywhere between 10-30 tons per flight depending on the aircraft type, the capacity of a narrow-bodied aircraft is only 2-6 tons per flight. Moreover, the smaller aircrafts cannot fly for more than 4-5 hours at a stretch, that means, long-haul air cargo movement is a serious concern.

The logistics of the most awaited coronavirus Vaccine. A serious challenge?

With most of the fore-running vaccine candidates across the world reaching into the core testing and human trials stages, the efforts are being made to manufacture and produce vaccines for the 7.8 billion global population to get rid of the coronavirus. Now, the massive challenge coming across is “Global Distribution of the COVID – 19 Vaccine”. It has been projected that by the end of the year “2020” companies will be able to launch the vaccine after different phases of efficacious clinical trials. We can expect and forecast the dire need of a robust and falter-proof supply chain integration and a phenomenal air cargo capacity right from the beginning of 2021. The vaccines would require an express and quick transportation. There will be need of large cold storage facilities, at transit points and most international gateways like airports. Most importantly the air cargo capacity will be in high demand to get the vaccines available to various parts of the world. Also, since vaccines need special handling requirement, there will be need of palletization and unitisation of goods which would need wide-bodied aircrafts and freighters to operate in large numbers.

Another risk factor involved that cannot be ignored is the security of the vaccines. As the vaccines are what every person in the world is currently looking forward to, there can be cases of pilferage, tampering and robbery during the transit. It would require special planning, secured loading and safeguarding throughout its movement. This means the logistics requirement for the vaccines would be in lines with that followed for movement of valuable goods like gold, silver, currency notes, etc.

What we wished

This is the time when rigorous IT -enabled solutions, supply-chain transparency and visibility, risk-mitigation and seamless logistics management is sought with the help of latest technologies like Machine learning and AI. We wish if blockchain technology had been in effect before the pandemic.

In nutshell, the whole world is waiting for the vaccine fervently and we ought to work together to make this mission possible!

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aviation sector COVID-19


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