Singapore’s Changi Airport is confident that the special attention it is placing on the key sectors of pharmaceuticals, perishables and e-commerce will drive new growth in the months and years ahead.
“These three verticals are the key pillars to Singapore’s manufacturing industry,” said Jaisey Yip, associate general manager of cargo and logistics development and air hub innovation at Changi Airport Group. “These are also high-potential industries.”
The pharmaceutical industry is particularly important to Changi’s business, with over 50 global bio-pharma companies having invested in Singapore.
“Collectively, they make up about 18% of Singapore’s total manufacturing sector,” Yip said. “By 2021, the industry forecasted that the global bio-pharma sales will be valued at US$400 million, with over US$16 billion being spent on cold chain logistics. This is something that Singapore would like to capture.”
In pursuit of that, CAG established Pharma@Changi in October 2017, an initiative consisting of 10 companies that have all obtained the International Air Transport Association’s Center of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics certification.
“We wanted to create a collaborative platform to achieve three main objectives,” said Yip. “We want to work together with these stakeholders to continue to look at whether there are gaps in terms of pharma handling in the airport environment and to address these gaps. Secondly, we want to pilot some projects such as digitization. Lastly, as a community, we want to jointly promote Singapore as a trusted and reliable air cargo pharma handing hub.”
In addition to Pharma@Changi, Changi was also the third airport to join Pharma.Aero, the global initiative founded by Miami and Brussels Airports which includes major shippers Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and MSD. According to Yip, out of five projects rolled out by the group over the past few months, Changi is a championing party behind the digitization project.
“The shippers have been telling us that when they tender their pharma cargo in the airport environment, they lose visibility of it and do not know what goes on,” she said. “For this project, we’re trying to understand from these shippers what exactly they need to know so we can standardize some of the common KPIs. We’re thinking of building a common dashboard so that shippers and forwarders can log in and track and trace things like location, temperature and humidity.”
Yip noted that the work between the pharma groups doesn’t overlap but is synergistic and complementary.
“If we come up with a proof of concept or some pilot at Pharma.Aero, we want to take it on board and share it with the Pharma@Changi community,” she said. “Let’s say we get the dashboard up and running. Perhaps this is something that the Changi community can also implement. At the same time, we’re also in constant dialogue with Pharma@Changi members. We see what other projects Singapore can undertake, which may or may not be relevant to Pharma.Aero.”
Overall, CAG is working closely with various governmental bodies and is always talking to the global players about how to make Singapore a regional distribution hub or consolidation centre in the region.
“We cannot build a hub in a silo,” said Yip. “We have a very close dialogue with agencies like the Economic Development Board and International Enterprise Singapore to pursue new opportunities. At the same time, we’re also working closely with Singapore’s own seaport operator PSA to strengthen Singapore’s value proposition for intermodal transhipment flows.”
One example of that is the project last year to make Singapore the first approved transhipment point for the break-bulk of chilled meat from New Zealand to Europe. Meat arrives by air and is reconsolidated into ocean container shipments destined for the EU, arriving two weeks faster than the traditional all-sea route.
In the longer term, CAG is planning the development of Changi East, a mega project consisting of a fifth passenger terminal, the extension of the third runway and the construction of the Changi East Industrial Zone.
“This will be our second air cargo zone which will be completed sometime in 2030, and will bring our handling capacity from the current 3 million tonnes to 5.4 million tonnes per annum,” said Yip. “This will also merge with our existing Changi Airfreight Centre to become a contiguous airport free trade zone.”
CAG is planning for the future air cargo hub to continue enhancing speed and efficiency, featuring dedicated roadways for autonomous ground vehicles, smarter use of data and technology, as well as the adoption of digital infrastructure such as the Internet of Things and robotics.
The master plan also allows for future resiliencies, with higher land intensification as compared to the current Changi Airfreight Centre and extra space set aside for future growth even beyond 2050, Yip added.
Changi set a new throughput record in 2017, having handled 2.13 million tonnes. This represented a year-on-year growth of 7.9% and was the first time the airport had passed the 2-million-tonne mark.
By Jeffrey Lee
Asia Cargo News | Singapore