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Zero degrees of cargo

Transporting and handling temperature-controlled shipments can be a challenge, but now, new technologies are ensuring sensitive freight will arrive in top condition, as Keith Mwanalushi discovers

Picture the scenario: Insulin must be transported to North America safely. Urgently needed vaccines must be flown to South America. Or a shipment of temperature-sensitive semiconductors from Hyderabad expected in Barcelona – all in day’s work for operators like Lufthansa Cargo.

Many of these operators are buying into newly developed solutions for the air shipment of temperature-sensitive cargo. DoKaSch Temperature Solutions in Germany for instance has seen a steady interest in its temperature-sensitive ULDs.

Andreas Seitz, Managing Director at DoKaSch, observes many reasons why the market for climate-controlled cargo solutions is growing: “The production of pharma goods like medicines and vaccines have become more globalised over the last years which is followed by a growing need for transportation of these sensitive goods.”

He says nearly all pharmaceuticals that are developed today, or will be in the near future, are biotech, so consequently, the number of temperature-sensitive medicines will likely grow.

DoKaSch has developed what it calls the ‘Opticooler’, which provides transport conditions for shipments across continents and climate zones or during unexpected events, for goods that must be kept within a very strict temperature range.

Seitz explains: “It’s equipped with battery powered cooling compressors and heaters as well as a self-regulating temperature control, the internal temperatures consistently stay well within range at any point in the storage area.”

He says temperatures between 2-8°C or 15-25°C for example can be maintained regardless of the ambient temperatures, that may vary between -30°C during a Canadian winter or +50°C during
a Middle Eastern summer.

Interestingly, the equipment only needs one electrical outlet to fully charge the energy storage after a flight and to ensure that enough power is always available to deal with unexpected events. A full charge, from 50% to 100%, can be achieved within approximately two hours, Seitz tells.  

Originally the Opticooler was developed for Lufthansa in 2004, but since 2014 the containers are available at many other airlines.

In fact, last year, DoKaSch signed master agreements with Saudia Cargo and Qatar Airways Cargo for the climate-controlled equipment.  The Middle Eastern operators were seeking highly reliable packaging solutions to transport temperature-sensitive shipments, especially for pharmaceuticals that must be kept within strict temperature tolerances throughout the entire supply chain, regardless of the ambient conditions, which are a challenge for this region.

Seitz states the Opticooler is especially designed for extreme climatic conditions, such as the high temperatures common in Saudi Arabia and the surrounding regions. “We mainly export pharmaceuticals from the European Union and the United States into Asia and Africa through the Middle Eastern hubs. For this reason, master agreements with carriers like Saudia Cargo and Qatar Airways Cargo, it enables us to send out Opticoolers on many different routings for our customers.”

When in discussion about the upgrade of standard ULDs with temperature-sensitive technologies,

Seitz, from his point of view, sees this option as neither economically wise nor qualitatively adequate. He stresses that an upgraded or retrofitted standard ULD will not be able to meet the special needs of temperature-sensitive freight and the strict regulation of the temperature deviation limits. “No, I don’t see any market for this approach,” he reckons.

As previously stated the most common temperature tolerance is 2-8C. Many sensitive materials for the healthcare market are designed to be transported in this temperature range.  Too cold and the payload will freeze, too warm and it will spoil.

“It’s critical that the temperature stays in the 2-8 range for as long as seven days, without having any temperature excursions,” says Dominic Hyde, Pelican BioThermal’s new Vice President of Crēdo on Demand. “When excursions do happen, they are typically due to human error. This might include not packing the shipper correctly, freezing the coolants or opening it for too long prior to removing the payload to a temperature-controlled storage area,” he suggests. >>


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