Maersk freighter

Poseidon network advances its pharmaceutical ocean-freight initiative

Field trial results to be unveiled at upcoming meeting


At the upcoming IQPC Temperature Controlled Logistics (TCL) Conference (London, Jan 28-31), the Poseidon initiative will be showing results from a field trial conducted during 2018, as well as previewing a next trial to begin in February. By itself, this news is minimally interesting; but the progress that the initiative has made since its first announcement a year ago is worth noting.

According to executive director (and chief promoter) Alan Kennedy, Poseidon is “a unique network of pharma shippers and specialist suppliers which, taken together, constitute the complete logistical cold-chain for pharma. All parties—from the pharma manufacturers at one end, to the logistics-providers in the middle, to the product suppliers at the other end—pull together in the same direction in order to achieve pre-defined, common goals.”

Ocean freight of pharmaceuticals has been growing, by fits and starts, over the past several years, as manufacturers ceaselessly look for lower-cost logistics options and—more significantly—ocean carriers and their technology providers have upgraded their services. It is not uncommon, now, to have containers with self-contained refrigeration systems, linked to cellular or satellite communication networks, providing validatable condition monitoring for pharma cold-chain shipments. A roughly comparable initiative has been undertaken by global air carriers—the CEIV program of the International Air Transport Assn. (IATA)–which has brought Good Distribution Practice (GDP) standards to air carriers, airports and freight handlers globally.

However, Poseidon is, at this point, purely a vendor- and client-based collaboration, and is not establishing enforceable standards. What it does have is a growing base of involved parties, including over a dozen pharma companies (with global firms like J&J, Roche and Novartis), and 10 vendors or service providers (Maersk, H Essers, Marsh Insurance, DuPont, LogTag, Controlant, Klinge Corp., ASC, Emball’iso and Cold Chain Technologies). According to Kennedy, these firms will apply “proven best-practice supply chain principles and procedures” to oceanborne shipments. Poseidon could also become a “neutral trustee” of “standardization and aggregated buying muscle,” but the feasibility of that remains to be seen.

The already completed trial involved “58 heavily-sensored pallets containing five different dosage formats of genuine pharma product, shipped in three separate containers, over 6 ocean journeys, totalling 30,000 km, in four different vessels, with three separate overland stages,” says a Poseidon statement. Millions of data points were recorded. The second trial will build on this, providing seasonal data. Poseidon is also establishing a management structure; so far, Torben Weilmuenster, Global Head of Supply Chain Management at Merz Pharma, has been elected as chair of the governing management group, and vice chair is Dr Steve Brabbs, Global Technology Leader for Cold Chain Protection at DuPont.