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In balmy Singapore, a tiny island nation that sits almost directly on the equator, it’s usually flowers, meat and seafood that gets whipped away intoSATS Ltd.’s cool rooms upon landing at Changi Airport. Now one of the world’s biggest ground handlers is gearing up for a more vital task.
Like cargo operators everywhere, SATS is preparing for the arrival of its first shipment of vaccines fromPfizer Inc. andBioNTech SE later this month. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said this week that the country, which has a population of around 5.5 million, should haveenough vaccines for everyone by the third quarter. Multiple bets have been placed, withModerna Inc. and Sinovac Biotech Ltd. jabs lined up as other potential candidates.
In anticipation, SATS has doubled production of dry ice needed to keep the Pfizer vaccine at the required storage temperature of minus 70 degrees Celsius. The company has also purchased two cool dollies, like giant freezers, to move the vaccines around on the ground.
“SATS will play an essential role in taking the vaccines off the planes, storing them at a low temperature and then sending them to the forwarders who will then take them to market,” Chief Executive Officer Alex Hungate said.
And it’s not just Singapore. SATS will play an important role in getting the vaccines out to cities including Beijing, Jakarta, Mumbai, he said.
SATS Coolport may also be enlisted by hospitals to store some vaccines if they don’t have the necessary facilities. A temperature-cooled container will need to be packed with up to 100 kilograms of dry ice to transport the Pfizer vaccines.
Read more: Airlines Face ‘Mission of the Century’ for Vaccines
While airlines — the workhorses that will move billions of vials all around the globe — swing from a Covid-induced idleness into action, ground handlers like SATS have been busy throughout the pandemic.
SATS handled 15% more pharmaceutical cargo by weight in the first seven months of this year versus the same period of 2019; daily production of dry ice meanwhile will now rise to around 4.5 tons — about the size of a large adult male hippopotamus.
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