It’s started: Many airline carriers have begun uplifting Covid-19 vaccines over the past few days, and Freight Forwarders are beginning to feel the pain as general cargo consignments are being short shipped from booked flights.

Temperature-sensitive vaccines are available so far, which must be kept ultra cold – at -70C, which interestingly enough, is easier to transport than β€˜fridge-cold’ vaccines.

The distribution of Covid-19 vaccines is going to be complex, with strings of networks reaching around the world, and depending on manufacturing sites and government orders.  Along with Russian vaccine Sputnik V, there are five potential Chinese-made vaccines as well as the much-publicised Moderna and AstraZeneca options.

Apart from the vaccines taking up air freight capacity, huge tonnages of testing kits for Covid-19 are heading to the EU from Korea with top priority. It is predicted that over 1000 tonnes will be transported on direct freighter services to all EU/UK lanes in December.

The knock-on effect is that with such a high demand, airlines continue to increase their rates as a result of limited space availability. At the same time, oceanfreight is also in high demand, with rates likewise having increased substantially.  

Most previous negotiated contract rates with airlines and shipping lines were withdrawn at the beginning of April 2020, and therefore each and every shipment is quoted as an adhoc and changes from week to week. This remains extremely challenging for the Freight Forwarding industry, and of course has a negative impact on importers and exporters with exorbitant and fluctuating freight rates.