Cold chain firms gear up to tap Covid-19 vaccine logistics market

P Manoj Mumbai | Updated on October 19, 2020 Published on October 19, 2020

Maintaining the required temperature all along the logistics chain is key to the potency of the vaccine, says Snowman Logistics   -  BL

Key operators readying their facilities for Covid vaccine storage

India’s cold chain industry is gearing up to handle the Covid-19 vaccine distribution requirements as the Centre begins work on setting up an efficient logistics network to ensure smooth delivery to more than 1.3 billion people.

India has a gigantic task ahead to ensure timely delivery and administration of the vaccine to its vulnerable target population. This is going to be an important tool for reversing the economic impact of the pandemic fallout and to get the working population back to work in full force.

Maintaining the required temperature all along the logistics chain is key to the potency of the vaccine, says Sunil Nair, CEO of Mumbai-listed Snowman Logistics.

The Indian cold chain industry is growing at a 13-15 per cent CAGR and is set to reach ₹47,000 crore by 2022, according to Crisil Research.

India has over 6,500 cold storage facilities spread unevenly across the country with an installed capacity of 30 million tonnes. Most of these cater to farm produce in rural areas with ambient temperature storage and therefore are not pharmaceutical ready.

About 90 per cent of these cold storages are single commodity facilities catering to potato, apple, grapes etc and are not suitable for pharma products like vaccine. Only a small part of the remaining 10 per cent of the industry is organised and capable of playing a key role in distribution of the Covid vaccine, says industry sources.

Key players

The organised operators in the cold chain business is dominated by Snowman Logistics, Coldex, ColdStar, Western Refrigeration and JWL. Most of these are regional players except Mumbai-listed Snowman which has a pan India presence with 31 facilities, counting pharma firms such as Abott, Bharat Biotech, GSK, Inventia, Novozymes and Zydus, among its clients.

“We have reserved one chamber in each of our facilities for Covid vaccine storage and have earmarked transport capacity for distribution through our dedicated fleet of refrigerated trucks,” Snowman’s Nair said.

Snowman has capability to handle 500 million doses immediately and can further expand capacity within 3-6 months to cater to both domestic and international demand, he added.

Effectiveness of the vaccine

The effectiveness of the vaccine has to be preserved by maintaining the right temperature throughout the logistics chain involving primary transportation from manufacturing sites to cold stores, storage at the desired temperature at the cold stores and distribution of the vaccine in controlled temperature environment in small parcels of various sizes for delivery at cities, towns, villages and talukas.

“This is something we can do with 100 per cent transparency on temperature every single minute. Whether the truck is in transit or whether it is in our warehouse, we can remotely monitor the temperature from Bengaluru where we have a 24/7 command centre that can track each vehicle,” he said.

With this technology, Snowman can monitor all 300 trucks and 255 chambers it has in 31 warehouses.

The warehouses and trucks run by Snowman are also equipped to maintain a temperature of between Plus 2 and Plus 8 degree centigrade required for Covid vaccines.

Snowman plans to install small plug-in freezers at small health centres in villages. For bigger health centres, it is looking at plugging in 40-foot reefer containers to store vaccines, Nair added.

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Published on October 19, 2020
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