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Swissport opens pharma transport complex in Flanders

Cargo handler Swissport is opening a new complex in Machelen (Flanders) for the storage and transport of medicines in the cargo zone of Brussels Airport. This investment strengthens Brussels Airport's leading position as a pharmaceutical hub.

Swissport in Machelen, Belgium

There is no other airport in the world that has so much refrigerated space for pharmaceuticals.

Steven Polmans
Cargo director of Brussels Airport

Highly specialized storage

The Swissport Pharma Center is located in the cargo zone of Machelen. In the central area of the complex, there is room for medicines that have to be stored between 15 and 25 degrees Celsius. The smaller hall on site is considerably colder at a temperature of 2 to 8 degrees.

Storage at a constant temperature is crucial for medicines. If certain medicines remain on the tarmac for five minutes, they can no longer be used,” explains Eddy De Timmerman, financial director of Swissport Belgium. The Swissport Pharma Center is therefore equipped with special loading docks for trucks, enabling the medicines to be transported to the aircraft without temperature changes.”

“In addition, Swissport invested in the adapted forklifts and pallet trucks, which are only used for the most sensitive medicines. Pharmaceutical pallets are very heavy and need to be rolled onto the plane,” De Timmerman adds.

Pharma hub

Brussels Airport has long been positioning itself as a pharma hub. The airport benefits from the presence of pharmaceutical giants such as Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer in Flanders. It was the first airport in the world to obtain the coveted CEIV certificate for pharmaceutical products. Aviapartner, DNata and WFS have long had pharmaceutical halls in Zaventem.

This pharmaceutical strategy has proven to be very successful. Last year, Brussels Airport transported an impressive 37,000 tons of pharmaceutical products: an increase of 30% compared to the year before. Pharmaceutical transport, which has more than doubled in the past four years at the airport, accounts for 7% of the total cargo transported.

Worldwide leader

“There is no other airport in the world that has so much refrigerated space for pharmaceuticals,” Steven Polmans, cargo director of Brussels Airport, points out. “Our refrigerated areas reduce the costs of pharmaceutical companies because they have to spend less money on packaging. Moreover, companies have to destroy fewer medicines, thanks to the high quality of our air transport.”

Swissport's Pharma Center accounts for only one tenth of a completely new complex, comprising 25,000 square meters of warehousing space. “That’s around 122 tennis courts, to put it like Roger Federer,” Luzius Wirth, the Swiss manager at Swissport, jokes. “The project also includes a new office building and other warehouses for perishable foods, such as lobster and crab.”

More info

Reported by
De Tijd newspaper
25 October 2019

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