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South Florida Delivers on Pharma-Friendly Distribution


Pharmaceutical Executive

This article discusses the supply chain benefits of pharma companies distributing from South Florida.

About 1,500 bioscience businesses and institutions, from leading companies to startups, have found a home in Greater Fort Lauderdale and its surrounding counties, making it one of the most dynamic biomedical clusters in the country ­––with good reason. Public and private entities across South Florida have spent many years building the appropriate infrastructure to support related industries in their entirety, from research and development to manufacturing and logistics.

For pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors, strong supply chain strategies are crucial to commercial success. Ensuring patient safety and drug efficacy during distribution are among the most sensitive steps in that strategy. Recent developments in South Florida are bringing about significant upgrades to national and international delivery options anywhere in the world––by air, land, or sea.

America’s first certified pharma hub

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), more than 50% of temperature fluctuations harmful to certain drug products happen during air transport. This issue alone is responsible for $2.5 billion to $12.5 billion in annual product loss to the air cargo industry.

In response, IATA developed a certification program for airports that sets strict guidelines for the handling of pharmaceutical products, with special attention to temperature controls. Miami International Airport (MIA), the number one airport in the U.S. for international cargo traffic, became the second airport in the world (after Brussels Airport) to achieve certification as an IATA Pharma Hub. MIA operates a total of 445,000 square feet of onsite refrigerated warehouse space for temperature-controlled products.

MIA’s certification recognizes its efforts in engaging nine local logistics companies––including airlines, ground handling companies, and freight forwarders––in the IATA Center of Excellence for Independent Validators (CEIV) in Pharmaceutical Logistics certification, which focuses on proper handling of pharmaceuticals shipped by air.

Fort Lauderdale-based Amerijet International, which operates its freighter fleet of B767-300/200 aircraft to 38 destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central and South America, became the first all-cargo U.S. airline to receive an IATA CEIV-Pharma certification. The airline transports 65 million pounds of temperature-controlled products annually.

Subsequently, Worldwide Flight Services, LATAM Cargo and Swissport also won CEIV certification, making MIA the only airport in the world with four IATA-certified carriers. In 2016, the first full year following certification, pharmaceutical freight at MIA increased 48% over 2015 to $4.3 billion.

Expanded capacity for overseas shipping

Broward County's Port Everglades, Florida's leading container port, has embarked upon the $437.5 million Southport Turning Notch Expansion project––the largest expansion in its history. In preparation for the re-opening in 2019 of the Panama Canal––just over 1,000 miles away––the project will lengthen the existing deepwater turn-around area for cargo ships from approximately 900 feet to 2,400 feet, add new berths for larger cargo ships, and install crane rail infrastructure for three new Super Post-Panamax cranes already on order.

Port Everglades, ideally located at the intersection of north-south and east-west trade, has long been a gateway to Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia. It affords direct access to the interstate highway system and Florida East Coast Railway's 43-acre intermodal container transfer facility, and is closer to the Atlantic shipping lanes than any other Southeastern U.S. port.

Last year’s completion of a $73 million rail hub inside Port Everglades gave the port the ability to handle more than 400,000 containers annually, about five times its former capacity. This gives South Florida a cost and time-to-market advantage over many of its competitors. For international shipments, a customs clearance facility in nearby Boca Raton is an important plus.

A logical choice for logistics and R&D

South Florida’s state-of-the-art distribution options are just one more reason why Greater Fort Lauderdale makes sense as a strategic location for forward-looking pharmaceutical companies. The cluster of life-science companies––including industry giants such as Allergen, Apotex, Aveva Drug Delivery Systems and many more––translates into advantages for all, and they’re opting to stay.

Following its recent merger with California-based NantCell, Miramar’s Altor Bioscience Corp., developers of proprietary cancer treatment platforms, announced the company would continue to be based in South Florida. SHL Group’s manufacturing and R&D division, SHL Pharma, chose to expand its Deerfield Beach facility.

With more than 25,000 jobs in transportation and warehousing as well as courses related to logistics at several academic institutions, Greater Fort Lauderdale has the workforce in place to support its growing global logistics sector. The growing concentration of life science companies attracts research facilities and grant money. More than 200 research projects are underway at Nova Southeastern University alone.

Add to this mix a multilingual workforce, convenient office and warehouse space, and organizations that assist importers and exporters, and Greater Fort Lauderdale’s pharmaceutical industry is primed for continued growth.


Bob Swindell is President and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, Broward County's official public/private economic development partnership.



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