Emirates Prepares To Distribute The COVID-19 Vaccine

With great anticipation for the release of a safe and proven COVID-19 vaccine, the cargo division of Emirates airline group is ensuring it will be capable of the mammoth task of distribution. Emirates SkyCargo is letting the world know that it has created ‘the world’s first dedicated airside cargo hub’ for the vaccine. This plan will include re-opening the SkyCentral DWC cargo terminal at Dubai South.

Emirates SkyCargo 777
Emirates SkyCargo has several dedicated freighters as part of its fleet, including Boeing 777s and 747s. SkyCargo also uses the holds of Emirates passenger aircraft for transportation. Photo: Emirates SkyCargo

‘A global leadership position’

Emirates SkyCargo will re-open its Emirates SkyCentral DWC cargo terminal at Dubai South to serve as a dedicated anchor hub for cold chain storage and distribution of the vaccine. By doing this, the freight division says that it is taking a ‘global leadership position.’

Simply put, SkyCargo’s role will be to fly in vaccines from manufacturing sites globally, then store and prepare shipments for regional and global distribution.

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As part of the dedicated hub, the carrier will also have a dedicated rapid response team to coordinate requests from ‘various partners involved in the international vaccine distribution ecosystem.’

Why Dubai?

So why does Emirates SkyCargo believe that Dubai should be a main hub for vaccine distribution? It’s for the same reason it’s passenger division has been successful for such a long time: It’s geographic location. Here’s what the CEO of Emirates Group had to say:

“Dubai is well positioned to serve as a gateway and distribution hub for COVID-19 vaccines to the rest of the world. We have the infrastructure and logistics connections, and a geographic location that puts markets representing more than two-thirds of the world’s population within an 8-hour flying radius. – HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Emirates Chairman and Chief Executive

In fact, Emirates has a network that ‘currently spans more than 130 destinations across six continents.’ Emirates SkyCargo says that this network covers all major pharmaceutical clusters and manufacturing locations.

Emirates SkyCargo
‘Cool Dollys’ are shown here. SkyCargo’s cold storage facilities will ensure proper handling of the temperature-sensitive vaccine. Photo: Emirates SkyCargo

In addition to its geographical position between Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania, SkyCargo insists that its infrastructure and logistical capabilities make it ideal for rapid vaccine distribution. This includes its existing experience transporting temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals.

Al Maktoum adds, “Emirates SkyCargo has managed to position Dubai amongst major global pharmaceutical customers as the year-round preferred point of transit for their valuable cargo.”

SkyCargo infrastructure

The dedicated cargo hub, located at Dubai South at Dubai World Central, will be the largest airside facility of its kind for COVID-19 vaccines. Here are some key facts about the Emirates SkyCentral DWC hub:

  • Over 4,000 square meters of temperature controlled, GDP certified dedicated pharma storage area.
  • An estimated ability to hold around 10 million vials of vaccine at a 2-8 degrees Celsius temperature range at once.
  • Movements are facilitated by the ‘world’s largest fleet of Cool Dollys.’
  • A large number of temperature-controlled trucking docks.
  • Dedicated zones for value-added services such as re-icing and repackaging of vaccines.
Emirates SkyCargo
A diagram of Emirates SkyCargo’s dedicated hub. Speed and temperature-control are the biggest factors of vaccine distribution. Photo: Emirates SkyCargo

“Through a combination of scheduled and charter flights, the cargo carrier will then be able to fly the vaccines to markets where they will be most needed.” – Emirates SkyCargo

Preparation at airports and airlines already underway

This news by Emirates is just the latest in a series of announcements being made by airlines and airports around the world, letting decision-makers know of their capabilities.

  • DHL subsidiary European Air Transport (EAT) Leipzig, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Deutsche Post DHL Group, has started five weekly flights from Brussels Airport (BRU). Brussels Airport is a major European hub for transporting temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical (pharma) products.
  • At Amsterdam Schiphol, a task force has been working on four different temperature scenarios for transportation and distribution of a vaccine.
  • Meanwhile, in Germany, Lufthansa Cargo and Frankfurt Airport are working together to prepare to ship the vaccine. Frankfurt Airport already has 12,000 square meters of temperature-controlled handling capacity available with another 2,000 square meters being prepared.

Does the news of these preparations bring excitement about an impending vaccine, or is it too soon to celebrate? Let us know in the comments.