Qatar Airways launch Pharma Express service plus new freighter destination
For its first new freighter service of 2015, Qatar Airways Cargo will launch twice weekly Airbus 330 freighter services to Basel, Switzerland, on 28 January 2015.
The airline will also commence a “Pharma Express” service this month; the first of its kind in the industry, offering air freight to the pharmaceutical industry worldwide. The Pharma Express service will link two key pharma origins, Brussels and Basel, with the extensive Qatar Airways' network, via Doha, Qatar.
Basel has a large pharmaceutical industry and is home to the headquarters of many major pharmaceutical companies, while the Swiss chemical industry also operates largely from Basel.
Brussels and the region of Flanders in Belgium, house 146 life science companies with biotech activities, of which 50 are related to healthcare, 46 are active in the bio-based economy and 50 are life science providers.
The Pharma Express route will be served by the Airbus 330 freighter and will operate from Brussels to Basel with a final stop in Doha on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Ulrich Ogiermann, Qatar Airways Chief Officer Cargo, said: “We are delighted to launch the Pharma Express and our first destination for 2015, Basel, Switzerland. The pharmaceutical industry is witnessing rapid growth each year, and with the rising demand there is the need to ensure that pharmaceuticals and healthcare products are transported with the utmost care while avoiding any temperature fluctuations.
“By investing in sophisticated technology and a team of highly qualified staff, Qatar Airways Cargo can now offer healthcare companies and their logistic partners a state-of-the-art service for shipping temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals all over the world, while maintaining the integrity and quality of their products throughout the supply chain.”
In January 2014, Qatar Airways Cargo launched QR Pharma which is an air freight service for pharmaceutical and healthcare products. QR Pharma offers both, active and passive solutions. The active solution provides temperature-controlled containers, which are designed to maintain a constant temperature throughout the entire transportation chain, and the passive solution keeps the product within a defined temperature band at all stages of the journey.
As an industry leader, Qatar Airways Cargo offers the fastest airline transfer at Doha through its Quick Ramp Transfer (QRT) solution. It is the only carrier in the Middle East to offer refrigerated or ‘reefer’ truck services for ramp transfers at its home hub. Sensitive commodities are collected from and delivered directly to the aircraft by specialised temperature-controlled vehicles, ensuring that the cool chain process is seamless, thereby eliminating risk to temperature exposure.
Qatar Airways Cargo serves more than 40 exclusive freighter destinations worldwide via its Doha hub and also delivers freight to 146 key business and leisure destinations globally on 146 aircraft. The Qatar Airways Cargo fleet now includes five Airbus 330 and seven Boeing 777 freighters. At the Dubai Airshow 2013, Qatar Airways placed a firm order for five new Airbus A330-200 Freighter aircraft. Also included in the order were eight additional A330-200F options, for a total of 13 aircraft. At the recent Farnborough Show, Qatar Airways announced its intent to order four B777 Freighters and options for four more.
For more information, please visit: http://www.qatarairways.com/uk/en/press-release.page?pr_id=pressrelease_140115_basel_cargo
Driver shortages: Why the industry needs to be worried
While driver shortages are a global problem, with a recent survey from the International Road Transport Union suggesting that driver shortages are expected to increase by 25% year-on-year across its 23 member countries, the issue has very much made itself felt for UK businesses in recent weeks.
A perfect storm of factors, which many within the industry have been wary of, and warning about, for months, have led to a situation wherein businesses are suddenly facing significant difficulties around transporting goods to shelves on time, as well as inflated operating costs for doing so.
What’s more, the public may also see price rises as a result due to demand outmatching supply for certain product lines, which in turn brings with it the risk of customer dissatisfaction and a hit to brand and stakeholder reputation. Given that this price inflation has been speculated to hit in October, when the extended grace period on Brexit customs checks comes to an end, the worst may be yet to come.
"Steps must be taken to make a career in the industry a more attractive proposition for younger drivers, which will require a joint effort from government, industry bodies, and the sector as a whole"
That said, we have already been hearing reports of service interruption due to lack of driver availability, meaning that volumes aren’t being transported, or delivered, to required schedules and lead times. A real-world example of this occurred on the weekend of 4-6 June with convenience retailer Nisa, with deliveries to Nisa outlets across the UK affected by driver shortages to its logistics provider DHL.
But where has this skills shortage stemmed from?
Supply is the primary issue. Specifically, the number of available EU drivers has decreased by up to 15,000 drivers due to Brexit alone, and this has been further exacerbated by drivers returning to their home country during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as changes to foreign exchange rates making UK a less desirable place to live and work. This, alongside the recent need to manage IR35 tax changes, has also led to significant inflation in driver and transport costs.
COVID-19 complications have also meant that there have been no HGV driver tests over the past year, meaning the expected 6,000-7,000 new drivers over the past year have not appeared. With the return of the hospitality sector we understand that this is a significant challenge with, for instance, order delivery lead times being extended.
It is little surprise, therefore, that the Road Haulage Association (RHA) earlier this month became the latest in a long line of industry spokespeople to write to the government about the driver shortage for trucks. The letter echoed the view held by much of the industry, that the cause of this issue is both multi-faceted and, at least in some aspects, long-standing.
So, many in the industry are in agreement as to the driving factors behind this crisis. But what can be done?
Simply enough, outside of businesses completely reorganising their supply chain network, external support is needed. In the short-term, the government should consider providing the industry with financial aid, and this can also be supported more widely with legislative change.
Specifically, immigration policy could be updated to place drivers on the shortage occupations list, which would go some way towards easing the burden created by foreign drivers returning to their home countries. Looking elsewhere, government should also look for ways to increase the availability of HGV driver tests after the blockage created by the coronavirus lockdowns.
Looking more long-term, steps must be taken to make a career in the industry a more attractive proposition for younger drivers, which will require a joint effort from government, industry bodies, and the sector as a whole. As it stands, multiple sources suggest that the average age of truck drivers in the UK is 48, with only one in every hundred drivers under the age of 25. We must therefore do more to increase the talent pipeline coming into the industry if we are to offset more significant skills shortages further down the line.
On the back of a turbulent year for the supply chain industry, it has become increasingly clear that the long-foretold shortage of drivers is now having a tangible and, in places, crippling effect on supply chains.
Drivers, and the wider supply chain industry, have rightly been recognised for the seismic role they played in keeping the nation moving and fed over the past year under unprecedented strain. If this level of service is to continue, we must now see Government answer calls to provide the support the sector needs, and work hand-in-hand with the industry to find a solution. If we do not see concrete action to this effect soon, we are likely to be in for a turbulent few months.
Rob Wright is executive director at SCALA, a leading provider of management services for the supply chain and logistics sector