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Port group PSA International, whose global network encompasses over 50 locations in 26 countries, is preparing to play a significant role in the worldwide distribution of COVID-19 vaccines ahead of this week’s Alcott Global Cold Chain Summit.

The first COVID-19 vaccines to be authorised by major governments and organisations have largely been transported by air, but this appears set to change as new vaccines come on stream.

Some of the vaccines currently in use, such as the version produced by Pfizer, require storage temperatures of under -70°C and have a shelf life of 35 days under these conditions.

These properties are not conducive to transport by sea freight, which has resulted in the maritime industry’s main role in the battle against COVID-19 being limited to the transportation of PPE and other vital medical equipment.

However, a number of new vaccines currently in development could be transported via sea freight, as they have a longer shelf life and require less stringent temperature controls of 2 to 8°C in transit.

Once these vaccines are authorised for use, the maritime industry, including PSA International and shipping giants like Maersk, CMA and COSCO, will ultimately be tasked with distributing these life-saving jabs around the world in a more affordable and sustainable manner than by air-cargo alone.

Some clues on how this can be achieved will no-doubt surface during this week’s highly anticipated Alcott Global ‘Makers & Movers’ Cold Chain Summit, which is to feature contributions from representatives of the World Economic Forum, the UN, GSK, Pfizer, COVAXX, Maersk, DHL and others.

One of those due to speak at the conference is Ho Ghim Siew, Head of Group Commercial, Strategy & Cargo Solutions, PSA International.

Speaking to Trans.INFO ahead of the conference, Ghim Siew was keen to emphasize the importance of cooperation during the rollout and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. She also touched on the larger role sea freight is expected to play in the coming months:

“It is important for governments, regulatory authorities, manufacturers and logistics organisations to work together as an eco-system to ensure that we can jointly achieve a reliable and resilient supply chain for vaccines.  When the production of vaccines scale up, there would likely be an increase in movement via ocean, especially for ancillary products and medical devices needed for the vaccination process. PSA will work closely with organisations and stakeholders to support the inclusive and sustainable distribution of vaccines and their related materials via sea or multi-modal movement, such as providing storage facilities for regional distribution centres, especially in the key hubs in PSA’s global network.”

Ho Ghim Siew’s comments follow PSA International’s declaration of support for the Neptune Declaration for Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change, which intends to establish the required conditions to shield seafarers from the threat of catching COVID-19.

On top of that, the company has announced it is working with UNICEF in their efforts to provide affordable and equitable vaccine distribution to 20% of the world’s population by the end of the year.

Speaking with regards to those announcements, Tan Chong Meng, Group CEO of PSA International, said, “In our interconnected and interdependent world, multi-stakeholder collaboration and action are key. PSA stands alongside our industry partners and stakeholders as we commit to ensuring the well-being of the seafarers in our spheres of influence, and to do our part to enable the globally inclusive, safe and sustainable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.”


Photo Credit: PSA International

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