Having continued to grow over the last decade, the perishable export market has remained robust during the COVID-19 pandemic amid strong segment demand and governments working to ensure continuous supply of perishable products.
Etihad Cargo has been well-placed to leverage the increased demand, and through its dedicated FreshForward product the company safely transports perishables such as flowers, fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, fish, and meat, while maintaining product integrity across its global network in accordance with the latest IATA standards, international requirements, local regulations, and best practices.
Despite last year’s disturbances related to COVID-19, transport for perishables remains high, according to Fabrice Panza, Etihad Cargo’s manager of global cool chain solutions.
“It’s true, globally you would have faced a decrease in the capacity (due to COVID-19) but when you look at the figures you also see that perishables continued to be transported at a high volume for any airlines,” said Panza.
With a high volume of produce being transported, FreshForward prides itself with a consistent and thorough examination of the factors and best practices in the cold chain process that affect maintenance of the product.
“When we look at perishables, we look at the kind of packaging to be shipped; there are quite a few requirements depending on the commodity itself and the nature of the good,” said Panza.
But it’s not only about catering to the best maintenance of the product.
“It’s about speed and being quick in the process,” said Panza. “It’s about effectiveness and productivity, it’s about making sure it’s the right temperature during operation with different commodities and it’s about providing the right environment and conditions so that from a product point of view the integrity of the product is being respected.”
And to control the right environment’s, FreshForward has the advantage of high-grade equipment.
“We have a very young fleet; the facilities are very modern, and it is all equipped with temperature control devices. That means even during flight we are capable of providing the right temperature environment at all times,” said Panza.
“An important step for us was to recognise all these elements, such as the amount of time taken before and after the food is transported, they are all part of process that should be standardised to a high level, and this is why we went into the IATA CEIV thresh certification in 2019.”
FreshForward has also passed stringent food safety management protocols within Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) methodology. As a result, FreshForward maintains its certification for IATA’s Centre of Excellence for Independent Validators (CEIV) for fresh products.
As a result, Etihad Cargo is the first carrier in the Middle East, and second globally, to be awarded the IATA CEIV Fresh certificate.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is a global trade association between airlines that created the Centre Excellence for Independent Validators (CEIV) accreditation.
The certificate sets standards, regulations and guidelines for international and domestic transport of perishable goods, ensuring that the safety and specific needs of the product are met.
Receiving an IATA CEIV certification, is a big achievement for any airline, especially considering how recent FreshForward is. Currently there are still very few established airlines able to claim this title.
Engineered around dedication, high priority attention throughout the supply chain, and high quality management processes, FreshForward provides a very specialised service with real-time monitoring of the temperature environments.
Other key features of the product include expedited ramp handling at all points, and reduced exposure to ambient shipping environment. Through Etihad’s dedicated perishables centre in Abu Dhabi, on-ground team members service inbound and outbound perishable markets to provide priority transportation from aircraft to temperature-controlled storage and vice versa to maintain cool-chain integrity.
Maintaining the product integrity across the network is a key focus of Etihad Cargo’s team, and through its own storage facilities, those of its partners, and through the use of active and hybrid containers, Etihad provides set temperature control storage and transport conditions throughout the journey, with temperature bands of +2°C to +8°C, +15°C to +25°C, and +2°C to +25°C.
Etihad can also provide specific services and equipment solutions upon request, such as dry ice packing, leasing of active containers, and door-to-door services in the UAE on refrigerated trucks.
While Etihad Cargo carry perishable items across its global network, its main trade lanes originate from North and South Asia and India, into the Middle East and Europe, while the routes also address demand from Europe and Africa into the Middle East and Asia.
With such a vast distance between Australia and many of its consumers, its important the transport services used are able to meet the volume of products being exported.
“Australia market is primarily fresh meat, fruit, flowers dairy; FreshForward is really able to support that volume, while maintaining the integrity and quality of the product. This is vital for the quality of the Australian product,” said Colin Nicholls, Etihad Cargo’s area manager – Australasia.
Besides a focus on maintaining the quality of the perishables it transports, FreshForward is changing traditional air transport through the increased care and support for the companies they transport for. Their membership in the Australian International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM) scheme presents a key example.
Created in response to COVID-19, the IFAM scheme is an Australian government program aimed to support air connections worldwide.
In addition to supporting customers to provide required airlift amid the grounding of many airlines’ passenger operations, Etihad Cargo has also worked with the UAE Government’s Food Supplies programme to ensure domestic supermarkets are well stocked and resupplied.
Etihad Cargo will continue to work closely with its partners to ensure they have the necessary capacity to carry vital supplies across our global network.
FreshForward is changing the face of air transport; it is no longer simply about moving products from one area to another. Even more so as economies start to recover from the pandemic, FreshForward looks to create partnerships and support every step of the supply chain and the industries that they function in.