How Brussels became the first stop for pharma

Steven Polmans new_SQ

Steven Polmans is Head of Cargo at Brussels Airport Company, which has put a huge focus in recent years on becoming a major European pharma hub. Here he talks about these efforts ahead of his presentation at the FlyPharma Conference 2016.

Brussels Airport is the world’s first IATA CEIV Pharma-certified airport company. What were the difficulties involved in implementing the necessary changes to make Brussels “Europe’s preferred pharma gateway”? How has this accreditation benefitted the airport?

Not only were we the first community to be IATA CEIV Pharma-certified, we started developing the programme before joining forces with IATA and the programme being taken over by them. So implementing was not the most difficult step for us – it was more the result of two years’ hard work within the industry and convincing others that a jointly developed certification programme could benefit all of us. Once we had everybody heading in the same direction, things became easier and implementation was the final step in a long process.

The certification helped us commercially, but working together with all stakeholders for a two-year period was the biggest benefit for us. With the certification, we got a neutral party confirming our leading position and higher standard when it comes the handling of pharma – but the work was done by all the companies that joined the programme. All this has resulted in higher volumes of pharmaceuticals being transported via our airport and our partner companies.

What, for you, are the advantages of air transport over other forms of transport when it comes to pharmaceuticals?

In the past, only speed was the biggest advantage of air cargo. With the initiatives being taken at Brussels Airport and other stakeholders in the industry, we would like to add quality, consistency and transparency to the benefits. Only in this way will we be able to offer to the pharma industry logistical solutions that truly meet their needs and expectations.

How have you found the response from companies in the pharma industry towards the efforts being made by Brussels airport? Is a fully certified cold chain, for example, an attractive proposition?

In the beginning we had to gain trust, but once the relationships were in place and the pharma industry saw we were not just another company trying to sell them a marketing story but actually changing things for the better, the response grew day by day. The cold chain being improved is one thing, but it is also the overall mindset and improvements being made that make a difference. We are, for example, also focusing on transparency, consistency and reliability. Therefore, we also created a pharma forum where, three times a year, we meet with all pharma shippers to discuss progress, new initiatives, regulations, and their expectations and concerns.

Tell me a bit about your presentation at the upcoming FlyPharma Conference. What can delegates expect to hear that perhaps they haven’t heard before?

I will not just focus on pharma, but will try to explain to the audience the role we see for ourselves as an airport to facilitate the cargo process and act as a partner for the cargo industry as a total. Pharma has been our main area of focus, and it is now important that we take what we have learnt and apply this to other sectors too.

Steven Polmans will be addressing FlyPharma delegates with his presentation on ‘Cargo Growth at BRUCargo’, in which he will share how the company has achieved success in the face of flat-lining European air freight volumes, and reveal how you can do the same in your own business. Click here to register for the FlyPharma Conference 2016 and claim your ticket to Steven’s session today.