Monday, June 17, 2024
Transforming Abu Dhabi into a pharma hub

Transforming Abu Dhabi into a pharma hub

As Abu Dhabi looks to transform itself into a world-class pharmaceutical hub, Etihad Cargo has become a key partner in the process. The UAE’s capital city has seen investment in strategic public and private sector collaborations grow in recent years, as the emirate establishes itself as a destination focused on global welfare and advanced life sciences. 

 In its Economic Vision 2030, Abu Dhabi identified pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and life sciences as key sectors in its transformation. “The emirate’s vision seeks to multiply the contribution of healthcare and life sciences to its GDP seven-fold within the next two years. As the country’s national carrier, Etihad Cargo has fully aligned with Abu Dhabi’s vision and expanded its dedicated pharmaceutical transportation product, PharmaLife, to support the emirate’s ambitions,” Fabrice Panza, Etihad Cargo’s Manager Global Cool Chain Solutions, Commercial, said.  

 To strengthen connections between Abu Dhabi and the rest of the world, Etihad Cargo has developed over 1,330 IATA CEIV Pharma and GDP-certified trade lanes, which seeks to ensure the integrity of products during transportation. A pharma-certified trade lane is covered when the origin and destination are linked by IATA CEIV/GDP Pharma-certified transport companies (such as an airline and a ground handler), throughout each stage of the journey from origin to destination. 

 “To enhance the expertise in the region and encourage the meaningful sharing of knowledge, we partnered with Pharma.Aero, the University of Antwerp and Khalifa University to host the Middle East’s first International Pharma Logistics Masterclass. Additionally, following the signing of an MOU agreement with the Belgian community, Etihad Cargo remains committed to sharing and continuously improving knowledge and training in the pharmaceutical logistics sector,” Panza added.  

Ideal location 

With a unique location that not only bridges Asia and Europe but also connects destinations further afield in the US and Africa, Abu Dhabi is a prime candidate to become a global pharma hub.  

Etihad Cargo’s state-of-the-art pharmaceutical facility services all continents, except South America, so far, with the airline focused on establishing pharma interline agreements that will provide connections with countries they don’t currently fly to directly. As the hub grows, Etihad Cargo anticipates that, in the coming years, they’ll see more presence from all the main stakeholders in the pharma and healthcare ecosystem, from researchers and manufacturers to distributors and shippers. 

“Abu Dhabi Airport offers a fantastic opportunity for large companies across a diverse range of sectors, including pharmaceutical, to build facilities in close proximity to the airport. In recent years, Abu Dhabi has cemented its position as a global hub for business, offering world-class infrastructure with easy access to regional and international markets. The emirate facilitates investment in facilities linked to the capital’s airport, offering companies a strategic location to enhance or expand their operations,” Panza explained, citing the airline’s new state-of-the-art cool chain facility at Abu Dhabi Airport. 

Read more: Etihad Cargo bolsters its global customer service centre operations

Dedicated services 

Etihad Cargo’s award-winning PharmaLife product is dedicated to the safe transportation of pharmaceuticals around the world. In 2022, the carrier continued to expand its pharmaceutical capabilities and increased PharmaLife revenue by 46%. To meet the requirements for transporting dangerous goods in frozen and deep-frozen conditions, PharmaLife provides premium tailored solutions to handle temperature-controlled conditions from -80 to 25 degrees Celsius via the carrier’s portfolio of leased active and hybrid containers. Etihad Cargo also increased its dry ice capabilities, with its full freighters carrying up to 13 tonnes of dry ice, five times more than previously and one of the largest amounts of dry ice that airlines are permitted to carry.  

“The new pharmaceutical cool chain hub at Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) will significantly enhance Etihad Cargo’s infrastructure and systems, consolidating the carrier’s position as the premier world-class carrier of pharmaceuticals in the region. The facility, a collaboration between Etihad Cargo, the cargo and logistics arm of Etihad Aviation Group, Etihad Airport Services Cargo and Abu Dhabi Airports, will further progress Etihad Cargo and Abu Dhabi’s shared vision of collaborating internationally to advance life sciences,” Panza said. 

In the 12 months prior to the scheduled opening of the carrier’s newly launched cool chain facility, Etihad Cargo transported over 50,000 tonnes of cool chain products, including pharmaceutical and healthcare products, across its network, which reaches throughout the Middle East, into Africa, Asia, Europe and the US.  

Read more: Twice as nice: Etihad Airways goes double daily to Jakarta

International reach 

 “In addition to launching a  new pharma facility, we are also gradually adding new, exclusive features to our PharmaLife product across our network. We have just launched our new dedicated thermal covers for PharmaLife products into our top pharma origin stations, including Amsterdam and Paris. We also can provide this new feature on demand, so our customers can reach out to our dedicated PharmaLife team wherever they are in the world,” Panza said. 

The PharmaLife product saw volumes continue to increase in 2022. In the first 11 months of the year, Etihad Cargo carried close to 10,000 tonnes of pharma cargo from a diverse range of origins with less inbound only dependency than in 2021. This has been very positive for Etihad Cargo, as it demonstrates the trust our customers have in our PharmaLife capabilities to move their highly sensitive commodities across our network. 

To further enhance the carrier’s pharmaceutical capabilities and accelerate the transportation of medication globally, Etihad Cargo has entered partnerships that will benefit the global pharma supply chain and further position Abu Dhabi as a global pharmaceutical and life science hub. As a founding member of the HOPE Consortium, launched in 2020 to provide a complete supply chain solution to address vaccine transport, demand planning, training, medical staff and digital technology infrastructure, Etihad Cargo has played a significant role in transporting over 260 million vaccinations to 60 countries and facilitating end-to-end vaccine delivery with the rapid on-ground deployment of medical and logistics experts, medical staff and equipment. 

 Furthermore, Etihad Cargo has also launched initiatives that have brought much-needed transparency, traceability and trackability to the sector, benefiting not only customers but also the global pharma supply chain. The HOPE Consortium, in partnership with Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC), Brussels Airport Company and Pharma.Aero, launched Pharma Corridor 2.0 between Brussels and Abu Dhabi.  

 “The main objective of Pharma Corridor 2.0 is to provide the highest levels of assurance in the quality of handling to pharmaceutical shippers and forwarders through the establishment of pharma corridors between airports with cargo handling communities certified under the CEIV Pharma programme. These pharma corridors will offer full transparency on the status of temperature-controlled pharmaceutical shipments, recording quality, time, temperature, potential deviations and actions. Reliable data, and the ability to freely share this data, will enable every stakeholder to track shipments in real-time and react dynamically as and when required,” Panza 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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