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Etihad Cargo Continues Strong Cool Chain Product Growth Trajectory

Etihad Cargo, the air cargo arm of Etihad Airways, marked a remarkable year in 2023, achieving significant growth in its dedicated cool chain products – PharmaLife and FreshForward.

Pharmaceutical shipments reached an all-time high, with a staggering 37 percent increase compared to 2022. This impressive feat underscores Etihad Cargo's robust infrastructure and expertise in handling even the most delicate and temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical products.

Fresh and perishable shipments also saw a 10 percent year-on-year growth. This marks the third consecutive year of positive performance for both PharmaLife and FreshForward, despite various market challenges. This consistent success underlines Etihad Cargo's unwavering commitment to excellence in the field of temperature-controlled logistics, further solidifying its position as a leading player in the global air cargo industry.

Etihad Cargo has continuously invested in and added features to its cool chain product range, including PharmaLife for the shipment of pharmaceuticals, healthcare and life sciences commodities and FreshForward for the shipment of perishable fresh produce, including fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, fish, meat and flowers. The carrier holds IATA's Centre of Excellence for Independent Validators (CEIV) certification in Pharmaceutical and Fresh logistics. A consistent commitment to safety and quality has enabled Etihad Cargo to achieve a 99.1 percent compliance rate for pharmaceutical shipments in addition to growing cool chain volumes for the last three years.

Contributing to the increase in cool chain volumes transported by Etihad Cargo in 2023 was the opening of the carrier's dedicated pharma hub, which has doubled its cool chain storage and handling capacity. The 3,300 square-metre facility comprises the latest technology and features, including RFS loading docks with levellers, insulation and floor work for faster and more efficient loading with stricter temperature controls, increased storage space, additional build-up and breakdown zones for improved production workflows and upgraded cool chain facilities for our pharma handling and storage operations. Since launching the new pharmaceutical centre in July 2023, Etihad Cargo immediately achieved an increase in pharmaceutical volumes, recording a 39 percent increase in July, a 40 percent increase in August and a 41 percent increase in September.

Etihad Cargo has also refurbished its perishables handling and storage facility. The carrier operates a 3,000-square-metre dedicated perishables temperature-controlled warehouse, providing smoother transfers to Etihad Cargo's FreshForward truck fleet, making the end-to-end journey of perishables easier and safer.

Leonard Rodrigues, Acting Managing Director at Etihad Cargo, said, "Etihad Cargo is fully aligned with Abu Dhabi's vision of becoming a global logistics, pharmaceuticals and perishables hub. The carrier's commitment to quality combined with continuous product and infrastructure enhancements has enabled Etihad Cargo to achieve significant growth and contribute to the creation of a more resilient and robust global cool chain."

Expanding beyond the carrier's Abu Dhabi hub, Etihad Cargo's PharmaLife network covers over 62 destinations. To strengthen connections between Abu Dhabi and the rest of the world, Etihad Cargo has developed over 1,330 IATA CEIV Pharma/ Good Distribution Practice (GDP)-certified trade lanes, ensuring product integrity. Etihad Cargo is actively collaborating with key airline partners to establish further IATA CEIV-certified pharma trade lanes to broaden the carrier's network through dedicated PharmaLife agreements.

Since launching Pharma Corridor 2.0 between Abu Dhabi and Brussels, Etihad Cargo has provided 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 IATA CEIV Pharma programme. In 2023, the carrier recorded a 10.3 percent increase in volumes transported via the first-of-its-kind corridor and has shipped over 70 percent more pharmaceutical and life sciences cargo volumes since the corridor's creation. The consistent growth for the Abu Dhabi to Brussels lane has been a major contributing factor to Etihad Cargo achieving the highest recorded PharmaLife tonnage since the carrier's inception.

Rodrigues said, "The establishment of Pharma Corridor 2.0 and an expansive global PharmaLife network has enabled Etihad Cargo to bring much-needed transparency, traceability and trackability to the sector, benefiting not only customers but also the global pharma supply chain. The unique collaboration and partnerships Etihad Cargo has pioneered have allowed the carrier to offer complete transparency on the status of temperature-controlled pharmaceutical shipments, recording quality, time, temperature, potential deviations and actions. Etihad Cargo is now actively exploring further opportunities to create additional corridors between Abu Dhabi and other key markets to bring these benefits to more regions critical to the manufacture and supply of pharmaceuticals. Leveraging the success of the Pharma Corridor, Etihad Cargo has launched Fresh Corridor 2.0 between Abu Dhabi and the Netherlands, resulting in a 42 percent increase in fresh volumes transported."

Etihad Cargo has also provided additional cool chain capacity to its partners and customers with the addition of new stations and increased frequencies to its global network, which has grown to serve over 70 destinations. Etihad Cargo's expanding freighter network, in combination with the airline's passenger network, supports growing capacity demand for Etihad Cargo's premium products, including PharmaLife and FreshForward. In Asia, the carrier added a fourth gateway destination in China — Ezhou — in 2023 and offers more belly hold cargo capacity across new passenger routes to Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram, operating seven flights per week to each destination. Seven new passenger flights to Chennai bring the total number of weekly flights to 21, supported by a twice-weekly freighter service.

Rodrigues concluded, "Etihad Cargo's partners have benefited from the carrier's expanded operations in key regions and increased frequencies across critical trade routes for pharmaceutical and perishables flows. For example, India represents 30-40 percent of the global production of generic medications and supplies medicines to over 200 countries. The country is establishing itself as a healthcare hub, which is driving demand for PharmaLife, and Etihad Cargo is committed to supporting emerging and growing markets through new product features, technology and dedicated expertise. In 2023, Etihad Cargo started new pharma roadshows and naturally focused on India. The carrier's Pharma Champions programme is providing local expertise for Etihad Cargo's Indian customers as well as enhancing its connectivity to India's key markets, including North America and Europe. In less than one year, Etihad Cargo has doubled its PharmaLife volumes ex India."

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