Singapore expresses desire to become a distribution and transportation hub for the COVID-19 vaccine to the region, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Monday (21 December).
He explained that the city-state has the capabilities to ensure the process is safe and that there is sufficient capacity.
“Some countries, of course, would prefer direct delivery because they will think that it’s faster, so point-to-point delivery. But I think there’s also a case to say that a place like Singapore, with our Changi family, we can also play a role as a hub for distribution and transportation to the region,” he said.
He added, “I don’t think they are mutually exclusive.”
Mr Ong said this while speaking to the media at a cold chain management facility run by cargo handler Sats after receiving the first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Singapore on Monday evening.
The vaccine, which is the first from Pfizer to arrive in Asia, landed at Changi Airport at about 7.30pm on Monday after departing Brussels, Belgium a day earlier.
While addressing the media, Mr Ong said: “Our staff, our logistic companies, they all have been trained up to the World Health Organisation standards to be able to handle all this cargo safely”.
He continued, “In terms of capacity, we have quite a huge capacity… more than adequate to handle temperature controlled cargo”.
The Transport Minister also explained that the estimated cargo movement for vaccines is about 65,000 tonnes worldwide but local handler Sats managed to deal with more than 300,000 tonnes of temperature-controlled shipment in 2019 alone.
Additionally, Singapore also has support from other companies like logistic giants DHL, UPS and FedEx, as well as pharmaceutical companies.
“Everything must come together. We have worked on it for several months and we’ll continue to work on it,” Mr Ong noted.
Singapore has been working towards positioning itself as a hub for vaccine transportation and hope that it can uplift the badly-affected aviation sector to gradual recovery.
In fact, the air cargo industry in Singapore has been amplifying its preparation in the last few months to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccines are safely transported in a constant temperature-controlled environment.
In October this year, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and Changi Airport Group (CAG) created a task force comprising of 18 individuals to study ways into improving the process.
Mr Ong noted that they have been looking at possible challenges and figuring out solutions before a vaccine was produced.
“One example was when they got to know that the Pfizer vaccine requires minus 70 deg C of storage, they started to look at dry ice production,” he noted.
He continued, “So today, Sats can produce 4 tonnes of dry ice every day in its… own facilities.”
Mr Ong went on to say that the work, which also required trial runs, managed to make sure that the first batch of COVID-19 vaccine arrived in the country safely.