Etihad to open state-of-the-art cool chain facility

Etihad to open state-of-the-art cool chain facility

After having to put the project on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Etihad Cargo is almost set to open a new cold chain facility in Abu Dhabi, Adam McCleery reports.

Etihad Cargo continues to invest heavily in its products and infrastructure as part of a company promise to provide its customers with the best possible logistical solutions.

Fabrice Panza, manager for global cool chain solutions, commercial division, said the newest state-of-the-art cool chain facility at the company’s Abu Dhabi hub was proof of this commitment.

“Prior to the opening of our cool chain facility in our Abu Dhabi hub, Etihad Cargo handled an average of 38,000 tonnes of perishables under our dedicated FreshForward product, of which 42 per cent is fruits and vegetables and 15 per cent is flowers — our top commodities every year — and a further 11,000 tonnes of pharmaceutical and healthcare products via our dedicated pharmaceutical transportation product, PharmaLife,” said Panza.

“Following the launch of our new cool chain facility, we will have the capability to accommodate additional 50,000 tonnes, doubling our cool chain storage capacity in our hub in Abu Dhabi.”

The 3,000-square-metre facility comprises the latest technology and features, including RFS loading docks with levellers, high-speed roll-up shutters, 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 Etihad Cargo PharmaLife handling and storage operations.

The new facility will also feature new x-ray screening for police and customs inspections within a fully temperature- controlled environment and new dedicated thermal covers.

The new cool chain facility will officially launch on 26 October.

Fabrice Panza said building the new facility in Abu Dhabi created a host of advantages for the cold chain

“Etihad Cargo’s customers will benefit from our expanded IATA CEIV Fresh and Pharma-certified cool chain products —FreshForward and PharmaLife — as we continue to provide world-class end-to-end temperature-controlled solutions for the transportation of perishables and pharmaceuticals across our global network,” said Panza.

Being IATA CEIV Fresh certified demonstrates Etihad Cargo’s compliance with Perishable Cargo Regulations (PCR), ensuring food safety and a reduction in waste, which in turn reinforces trust among our customers and enables us to implement best practices across the cold supply chain.

“Our new cool chain centre will also provide smoother transfers to Etihad Cargo’s FreshForward truck fleet when products need to be delivered in the UAE or be handed over to the consignee at Abu Dhabi Airport, making the end-to-end journey of perishables easier and safer,” said Panza.

Despite being in a post pandemic world, Etihad learnt critical lessons from the unprecedented events, which are helping inform the company today.

“The late Winston Churchill is credited with saying, “Never let a good crisis go to waste,” and Etihad Cargo learned many lessons during the pandemic,” said Panza.

“The COVID-19 crisis highlighted how critical an agile and flexible approach is when providing emergency solutions. As countries locked down, borders closed and supply chains were disrupted, the world increasingly relied on air cargo for necessities, such as food, fresh produce and pharmaceuticals, including vaccines.

“Throughout the pandemic, the cool chain supply chain remained robust, driven by strong segment demand and the efforts of governments around the world to ensure the continuous supply of pharmaceutical and perishable products.”

Demonstrating this was Etihad Cargo’s 14 per cent increase in transportation of perishable goods in 2021.

“In 2022, we achieved a 46 per cent increase in revenue for our PharmaLife product,” said Panza.

“From our new cool chain facility in Abu Dhabi, Etihad Cargo will continue to work closely with customers and partners to ensure the smooth, efficient, safe, and on-time delivery of perishables.

Panza said achieving this goal relied heavily on transparency between parties involved.

“And the provision of accessible and accurate information at every step of perishable cargo’s journey,” he added.

“We monitor and control external conditions and have robust contingency plans in place to mitigate the risks associated with temperature and other external factors so we can ensure perishables arrive at their final destination in perfect condition.”

Etihad Cargo also had to endure the impact of the pandemic while in the midst of planning its new cool chain facility in Abu Dhabi.

“Plans to expand our cool chain capabilities and develop a new state-of- the-art cold chain facility commenced back in 2018,” said Panza.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic delayed our plans, we are delighted to announce the new cool chain facility will officially open its doors on 26 October.”

Panza said the location of the site also created a host of advantages for clients.

“The country has a dynamic and active cool chain and supply chain ecosystem, and there is strong collaboration between regulatory bodies and business entities with the shared goal of future-proofing the industry and further establishing the emirates as a global cool supply chain hub,” he said.

The location offers a bridge between Asia, Europe, Africa and the USA

“Our hub in Abu Dhabi is unique in that it is in the perfect location to offer a bridge between not only Asia and Europe but also, further afield, the USA and Africa. Etihad Cargo’s network currently offers cargo capacity to 79 destinations across Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Americas with 564 weekly rotations.

“We also operate charter flights and utilise an extensive road feeder service network to service demand across non-network destinations. We remain committed to expanding our network and adding capacity to address our customers’ requirements.”

The facility is also capable of storing a huge range of products which require differing environments.

“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,” said Panza.

“Etihad Cargo also utilises traditional containers that meet standard temperature requirements, from 2 to 8 and 15 to 25 degrees Celsius.”

The flaws highlighted by the supply chain breakdown of the last handful of years also informed the industry on the best ways to safeguard the supply, and cool chain, into the future.

“The flaws of the cool chain exposed over the last couple of years include data, or more specifically the last of data, incomplete data, data that has not been digitised and cannot be shared effectively and what we do with the data we gather,” said Panza.

“More than ever before, consumers are demanding increased traceability and traceability from the perishables supply chain.

“This traceability is also essential to maintaining food safety and operational efficiency, so it is vital carriers are able to track a product’s journey from production through to processing and distribution.”

Etihad Cargo ensures perishables are delivered in the best condition possible through processes that provide visibility and offer robust traceability and tracking.

Through the adoption and utilisation of digital traceability, Etihad Cargo works with clients to help them validate the authenticity of product safety, provenance and health or sustainability claims.

“The technologies we use and processes we follow ensure the data we collect, track and share give unrivalled visibility across every stage of perishable cargo’s journey,” said Panza.

And to address concerns of sustainability, Etihad Cargo has implemented several initiatives to make the transportation of perishables more sustainable, including the introduction of specialised thermal covers and the replacement of traditional unit load devices (ULDs) with lighter-weight ULDs, enabling greater fuel efficiency.

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