Saturday, June 15, 2024
Sonoco ThermoSafe stirs up pharma airfreight

Sonoco ThermoSafe stirs up pharma airfreight

Consider healthcare airfreight has forever changed. Blame it on the pandemic, the political landscape, or unpredictable weather. Or some say, it’s just another day in the life of a supply chain, forever tumultuous.

“We’ve been put to the test, like many times before, in strenuous supply chain times. Strong relationships with our material suppliers and global manufacturing footprint has enabled us to provide an uninterrupted supply of packaging to customers. This is also true in our global Pegasus ULD airfreight network of ground handling partners and airlines”, Gary Morgan, General Manager, Sonoco Thermosafe, said.

What’s changed in healthcare airfreight? 

Cost pressure has been playing an increasing role also while patents are expiring, and health authorities’ regulations and requirements are getting stricter. With temperature sensitive healthcare products, the requirements are completely unique. Complete assurance and confirmation that the shipment is controlled throughout the duration of the shipment is the ultimate goal.

“Since the pandemic, there has been a resurgence of cold chain. Call it awareness or education of the strict temperature control requirements at every point in a supply chain. More pharmaceutical companies are protecting their products through risk assessment practices, increased monitoring and thermal assurance packaging. But truly the growth has been over the past 20+ years in the volume of temperature controlled pharmaceutical airfreight, driving the need for advanced packaging solutions”, Vivian Berni, Director of Product Management, Sonoco ThermoSafe, explained.

READ: Sonoco ThermoSafe and Unilode sign agreement

New container technology 

The use of passive containers continues to rise for the shipment of pharmaceutical airfreight as passive offers alternative advantages over an active system. Passive containers do not require any electrical or mechanical operation. In busy airports, this can be a good option because it eases operational burden at stations and reduces risk. Overall, passive containers are a more cost-effective choice.

However, until recently, all passive containers required additional nets, straps or pallet sheets. That’s why Sonoco ThermoSafe set out to innovate and create the safest and most user-friendly Temperature Control Container (TCC) solution available, to reduce the risks and ensure valuable pharmaceutical products arrive in perfect condition. The Pegasus ULD is a new class of airfreight TCC. As an Advanced Passive container, it uses Phase Change Materials (PCM) same as the coolants that some passive packaging do, but the Pegasus is a Unit Load Device or ULD. The Pegasus ULD fits payload 1 US or 1 EU pallet and maintains the temperature range of 2-8°C for 13+ days.

“The Pegasus ULD is an innovative solution for airfreight temperature-controlled shipping, designed to offer an easy and reliable alternative to traditional packaging options. Unlike active temperature-controlled containers, the Pegasus ULD requires no specialised training or handling and has no mechanical failures or constant power consumption. And unlike passive temperature-controlled packaging containers, the Pegasus ULD is an Aircraft Certified unit load device, making return logistics a breeze”, Federico Lupp, Head of Business Development Bulk Rental EMEA & APAC, Sonoco ThermoSafe, said.

Sonoco’s Global Service Network includes partnerships with ACL Airshop, Unilode Aviation Solutions, and Focus WFS where the Pegasus ULD fleet is in stock and available for release today. Each station is an FAA 145 facility capable of performing the required ULD Maintenance, Repair, and Operation (MRO) as per regulatory requirements for flight safety. Each station also performs ground services to include the preconditioning of PCM Bottles (Phase Change Material) in the Temperature Controlled chambers available on site. So far 10 Sonoco Stations are ready and operational (ORD JFK MIA DFW LAX AMS LHR DXB ICN HKG) with more Stations being added soon.

Sonoco has global Master Lease Agreements (MLA) in place with most major airlines offering an extensive global network to customers and the pharmaceutical industry in general.

“After working in the air cargo temperature management solutions and cold chain industry for decades, I can honestly say that the Pegasus ULD is one of the most customer & environmental-friendly technology on the market for transporting time and temperature sensitive pharmaceuticals. We are delighted to announce our growing global service network, partner airlines, and forwarding partners.” Bourji Mourad, Director, Global Logistics & Partner Management – Bulk Leasing Services, Sonoco ThermoSafe, said.

READ: Sonoco Thermosafe Pegasus ULD flies into service

Packaging as a Service (PaaS) 

Sustainability is at the top of all pharmaceutical company agendas now. How far it has drilled into supply chain into actionable initiatives varies from company to company. Pharmaceutical companies want to focus on their core competencies of discovering, developing and marketing medicines. That leaves the science of packaging to their partners.

Packaging as a Service (PaaS) has been hailed as the way forward to reduce single-use packaging to drastically cut landfill. Pharma is pushing for more simple, smart and sustainable solutions motivating them to look for alternatives to active packaging, in turn reducing touchpoints and risk in an ideal door to door shipping environment.

“We’re delighted the Pegasus ULD meets all current pharmaceutical company objectives for shipping temperature sensitive airfreight. Reliable performance that can be trusted well-beyond the shipment time frame to allow for unexpected delays; reusable container to work toward sustainability; and assurance through real-time monitoring visibility built into the container”, Vivian Berni, Director of Product Management, Sonoco ThermoSafe, said.


Picture of Edward Hardy

Edward Hardy

Having become a journalist after university, Edward Hardy has been a reporter and editor at some of the world's leading publications and news sites. In 2022, he became Air Cargo Week's Editor. Got news to share? Contact me on


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