Emirates Gears Up For COVID-19 Vaccine Response

SkyCentral DWC cargo terminal at Dubai South
Credit: Emirates

With the approval of COVID-19 vaccines on the horizon, the next major challenge will be to distribute billions of doses swiftly and globally.

With that in mind, Emirates SkyCargo is creating what the company described Oct. 22 as the world’s first dedicated airside cargo hub for the vaccine. 

The carrier announced that it will be re-opening the Emirates SkyCentral DWC cargo terminal at Dubai South (also known as Dubai World Central) to serve as a dedicated hub for cold chain storage and distribution of the vaccine.

The freight division of Emirates has also set up a dedicated rapid response team to coordinate requests from partners involved in the international vaccine distribution eco-system and to streamline the carrier’s response to vaccine transportation requests.

Emirates SkyCargo’s vaccine hub at Dubai South will be the largest dedicated airside facility in the world for COVID-19 vaccines. The hub will allow the carrier to fly in vaccines from manufacturing sites globally, then store and prepare shipments for regional and global distribution.

The facility has a temperature-controlled, dedicated pharma storage area of more than 4,000 m² (43,000 ft²). It is estimated that the facility can hold around 10 million vials of vaccine at 2-8 °C (36-46 °F) at any given time.

The state-of-the-art infrastructure is complemented by one of the world’s largest fleet of “Cool Dollys” helping protect temperature-sensitive cargo during transit between aircraft and the terminal. Additionally, a large number of temperature-controlled trucking docks and the proximity of the terminal to aircraft parking gates will ensure rapid clearance of cargo for further distribution, the airline said.

In addition to cold storage, Emirates SkyCargo will also offer dedicated zones for value-added services such as re-icing and repackaging of vaccines for global distribution.

The size of the facility will allow the carrier to handle the large volume of time-critical requests for cross-border vaccine movement.

“Dubai is well-positioned to serve as a gateway and distribution hub for COVID-19 vaccines to the rest of the world,” Emirates chairman and CEO Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said. “We have the infrastructure and logistics connections and a geographic location that puts markets representing more than two-thirds of the world’s population within an eight-hour flying radius.”

Alan Dron

Based in London, Alan is Europe & Middle East correspondent at Air Transport World.