Port of Antwerp is the first port in the world to operate under the standard of European GDP (Good Distribution Practice) rules throughout its logistics chain — to boost its distribution of pharmaceutical products.
"Life sciences and Healthcare products require specific handling during distribution, which is laid down in the GDP guidelines. Port of Antwerp has translated this for a maritime setting, making it the first port in the world to operate under the standard of the European GDP rules throughout the logistics chain," it said in a statement.
First seaport in the world with GDP guidelines
The Port noted that Belgium is an important hub for the Life sciences & Healthcare sector, and many multinationals have their offices there. It noted that one in six medicines exported from Europe usually set off from Belgium, and half of these medicines are also produced there.
GDP is a quality assurance system, meaning that the product quality of Life sciences & Healthcare products such as medicines, blood plasma, vaccines and medical equipment is guaranteed throughout the distribution process.
Port of Antwerp said although the pharma sector is primarily associated with air freight, there is an increasing demand for shipping by reefer container.
With 63,000 m² of warehouses that comply with the GDP guidelines, 8,000 plugs for reefer containers and worldwide connectivity with more than 1000 destinations, the Port of Antwerp can play an important role in this respect, it added.
"That is why Port of Antwerp has drawn up GDP guidelines for the deep sea freight and port logistics of these temperature-sensitive products. This means that the port is the first seaport in the world that can operate under European GDP rules, in all links of the logistics chain, including container terminals," Port of Antwerp noted.
Port of Antwerp is Europe's second-largest port in terms of cargo volume and the global number 17. Nonetheless, it is the world’s largest port for general cargo.
Vaccine distribution challenges
"Distributing billions of vaccines poses an unprecedented logistical challenge and will push the boundaries of logistics chains. As the Port of Antwerp, we are already currently working with a number of partners within the World Economic Forum to find solutions to the various problems thrown up by this huge logistics operation. Not least to reach the people in less developed countries and ensure they have access to the vaccine," said Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO Port of Antwerp.
Annick De Ridder, port alderwoman noted that these GDP guidelines at the Port of Antwerp make reefer container transport a "genuine alternative to air freight"
"Thanks to the strategic location of our port, the more than 1,000 permanent connections, our reefer container capacity and the expertise and know-how within our port, we can be part of the solution. We are proud to be the first port in the world to play a pioneering role in this regard while being socially responsible," she said.
Andy Faes, regional manager Healthcare Vertical Europe, Expeditors said the move will benefit the patients at the end of the logistics chain.
"With this initiative that was launched more than 2 years ago, the Port of Antwerp aims to ensure that there is standardisation in terms of GDP regulations at port level," he said.