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Singapore Airlines to prioritize freight capacity for COVID-19 vaccines

Aviation Updates Philippines – Singapore Airlines (SIA) will prioritize freight capacity to deliver COVID-19 vaccines once they are available and will conduct test flights to trial the process, the airline said on Saturday (December 5).

SIA will be deploying all seven of its Boeing 747-400F aircraft and will be using some of its passenger aircraft to boost capacity if necessary. The airline is currently in talks with various vaccine manufacturers and is ironing out the details of the planned trial flights.

"We have been working hard to ensure that we are ready for one of the biggest and most important supply chain challenges of our generation — the transportation and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines around the world," SIA senior vice president of cargo Chin Yau Seng said during a media event.

SIA has signed agreements with cold chain container providers to ensure that it has enough temperature-controlled containers to transport large volumes of COVID-19 vaccines. Tracking devices will also be used to give vaccine manufacturers and logistics service providers "complete end-to-end visibility" throughout the journey.

"We can roughly take about eight million doses of a normal vaccine (on a cargo plane), but for some of the ones that require a lot more dry ice...we will probably be able to carry less, maybe four million or so," Chin said.

Some vaccines — like the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine — must be transported and stored at ultra-low temperatures before they are injected.

Meanwhile, Singaporean ground handling providers SATS and dnata are also preparing to increase their cool storage capabilities to handle the vaccines once they arrive.

SATS said it plans to add refrigerated trucks and temperature-controlled containers and increase charging points at its 8,000 sq. m facility, which currently handles 250,000 tonnes of cargo and pharmaceutical shipments annually.

dnata, on the other hand, said it will double its capacity by early 2021 through additional cool storage containers at its 1,400 sq. m facility.

Photo from SIA Cargo

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