Royal Cargo, Inc., the country’s leading integrated logistics provider, is expanding its pharmaceutical logistics services with the construction of new temperate controlled facility to ensure proper handling and storage of the critical COVID-19 vaccines into the country.
Royal Cargo President Elmer Sarmiento told Business Bulletin they are investing at least P50 million for the construction of four new buildings at its Paranaque headquarters.
Construction of the new facility is ongoing and is expected to be completed in February this year, just in time for the first quarter expected arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine into the country.
“We are investing in a facility with low temperature unit for Pfizer vaccines but we have been in the business of pharma logistics long before so we are taking this opportunity of investing around P50 million. We are just adding four more because it is also expensive,” he said.
According to Sarmiento, the temperate controlled facility would ensure they would meet the three types of storage requirements. These are the Plus 2-8 degrees Celsius, minus 20, and minus 70 degrees. Certain pharmaceutical firms that produce the COVID-19 vaccines require minus 70-degree storage facilities.
Its expansion will be located inside its half a hectare main office in Paranaque, which is also ideal because it is just a kilometer away from the airport. This will serve as its pharma logistics hub as Royal Cargo is also engaged in providing storage and logistics for clinical trials and some other vaccines, and other high value medicines.
“We have been into this business for quite some time, but with the COVID-19, we are growing this part of our business,” said Sarmiento, who said that pharma logistics is still a small portion of its total business.
Earlier, Royal Cargo successfully cleared and delivered over one million vials of Penticiline vaccine within the required temperature of +2˚C to +8˚C without breaking the cold chain.
The said vaccines were delivered for the Department of Health thru Medical Vaccine Online Deliveries which aims to address the common diseases for infants including Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Hepatitis B and H, and Influenza type B.
Royal Cargo’s Pharmaceutical Logistics unit provides logistics management solutions for pharmaceutical and biotechnological industries.
Aside from the Paranaque headquarters, Royal Cargo has big facilities in Bulacan, Cavite and Laguna.
Amb. Benedicto V. Yujuico, President of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), the largest umbrella of business organizations in the country cited reports that the vaccines now in advance stages of development require meticulous handling and sub-zero cold chain infrastructure, which the country does not currently have.
“There are no facilities in the country that can handle -80°C. The lowest temperature our cold storage facilities can go down to is -20°C to 25°C. The same is true for refrigerated trucks,” Yujuico said.
Cold storage facilities and refrigerated trucks in the country meanwhile also handle mixed cargo - fish, meat, dairy, fruit and vegetables. There is the danger of contamination of the vaccines if co-stored in these facilities.
“We need dedicated transport service and storage spaces to keep the integrity of the vaccines. These require massive investment and coordination, a herculean task that cannot be done by government alone,” Yujuico said.
Expressing appreciation at the efforts of government to bring a vaccine to the country, Yujuico said PCCI is already consulting with industry players in the cold chain and supply chain businesses, transport (airfreight, shipping and trucking), and power generation, and is doing an inventory of existing facilities to step up the readiness of cold storage infrastructure and delivery logistics for the vaccine. PCCI is also consulting with its local chambers for possible vaccination centers where these facilities may be put up.
PCCI said government’s partnership will entice private sector investment in the cold chain delivery system.