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SIA readies seven Boeing freighters for vaccines transportation, with passenger jets on standby

SINGAPORE Airlines (SIA) has seven Boeing 747-400 freighters waiting in the wings for the transportation of the coronavirus vaccines, while its passenger aircraft fleet is also ready to be deployed to ramp up capacity.

The carrier, in a media backgrounder on Saturday, said that it will make available cargo space on the flights by its seven Boeing 747-400 freighters, and give priority to vaccine shipments across the key vaccine trade lanes.

Moreover, it could deploy its fleet of passenger planes to fly more vaccines should the need arise.

SIA created a task force in May - well before the vaccine candidates hit the headlines in November - to ensure all aspects of its cargo operations are geared up for the transportation of time- and temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical shipments.

The Business Times earlier reported that Singapore is revving up for the transportation of the vaccines, including having set up a private-public task force. SIA is a member of the group established by the Changi Airport Group and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore.

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Also, SIA has inked master-leasing deals with several cold chain container providers as thermal protection systems are required to make sure the various vaccines are stored according to their temperature requirements. These deals will ensure that the carrier will have access to sufficient temperature-controlled containers to handle the large volumes of vaccines that need to be airlifted.

The company will also have devices on board for vaccine producers and their logistics service providers to track their shipments, including monitoring the temperature.

"In addition to the active tracking of the shipments through these devices, SIA has a 24/7 cargo hub operations team that will monitor the vaccine shipments through its digital operations control tower," the company noted in the statement.

Its cold chain service network for transporting time-sensitive and temperature-controlled pharmaceutical freight was expanded to include Brisbane and Melbourne in September.

SIA Cargo carried about 22,000 tonnes of pharmaceutical shipments in the last financial year that ended in March.

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