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Efficient ocean freight solution for highly valuable pharma shipments

Customer: A clinical-stage bio-pharma company
Location: USA and UK
Challenge: To transport pharma materials worth over 1.4 million USD from UK to USA while keeping transport costs as low as possible
Solution: An end-to-end solution with temperature-controlled and GPS tracked ocean freight containers

Time and temperature sensitive pharmaceutical products require a highly specialised supply chain, including a dedicated global team for customer service, expert advice on packaging solutions and compliance to the strictest of regulatory standards.

With an increasing demand for transporting pharma worldwide, compliance, standardisation, accountability and transparency across the supply chain is essential. Unlike other methods of transport where space is likely to be at a premium, ocean shipping presents a wide range of benefits.

Developing technologies for refrigerated sea containers and logistics have positioned ocean freight as a major medium of transport from within the pharma industry.

The customer is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company dedicated to researching, developing and commercialising innovative therapeutics in medical dermatology. With a strong R&D pipeline, and a global network of research centres, this customer required a specialist logistics company capable of reliably transporting its valuable research and pharma product from the UK to the US via the most efficient method.


With a focus on making the pharma supply chain as efficient as possible, there has been a growth within the industry in recent years towards the use of ocean freight.

Whilst air cargo has many benefits and is often the preferred method of transport for a wide range of scenarios, sometimes shipping by ocean freight is the most cost-effective option for large temperature-controlled consignments of APIs, IMPs and marked medicines, especially when timescales are not critical.

Ensuring an unbroken cold chain

Shipping pharmaceuticals requires a high level of safety expertise. From the manufacturing site to the point of delivery, the integrity and quality of pharma products must be maintained throughout.

boxes on container
Pharma materials being loaded onto the container

As the pharma materials needed to be transported under strict temperature requirements in order to maintain the validity of the product, Biocair was responsible for installing bespoke temperature monitoring and GPS hardware within the containers. Although this requirement is often commonplace in the aviation industry, many containers used for ocean shipping still do not benefit from this technology.

Through shared access to temperature and location data, Biocair enabled all stakeholders in this project the ability to view the data when required. Andrew Moss, Operations Manager based at Biocair’s Edinburgh office, comments that “Biocair was able to track and monitor the movement of these materials from collection in the UK to delivery at the customer’s site in the US. As well as temperature and location, we monitored the humidity of the containers – this was particularly important as any change would have drastically increased the risk of the shipment, and Biocair would have then implemented its contingency procedures to ensure the validity of this product was not compromised.”

1.4 million USD of pharma products

Historically, a significant amount of pharma ocean transport has been attributed to low value, high-volume products.

The high value of the materials for this particular shipment, estimated to be over 1.4 million USD, meant that Biocair needed to implement an integrated, end-to-end supply chain network.


Careful planning, coordination and communication took place between the client and Biocair at each phase in order to maximise the logistical steps needed for a successful operation. Biocair’s global network of offices, including its Edinburgh (UK) and Raleigh Durham (US) offices, collaborated extensively and supervised the project throughout.

The most cost-efficient transport solution

Ryan Nieradka, East Coast Operations Manager at Biocair Inc, explains that “Biocair carried out a viability assessment and then decided that, by implementing an ocean freight solution, the cost for shipping the material to the customer would be drastically lower than that of air freight. It was estimated that three aircraft containers would have been required for this particular project, whereas only one ocean shipping container was needed.”

buildings in Boston US with trees
In addition to Boston, Biocair has offices in 7 other locations across the US

The pallets were arranged by a Biocair expert on-site at the point of departure, making sure there was no risk of damage or movement of the materials, appropriate gaps were created for airflow and that the product could not move during transit.

Biocair’s team of logistics experts liaised with the ocean liner and gained pre-approval of the product prior to shipping, partly due to the high value of the shipments.

Industry-leading expertise and customer service

Throughout the entirety of this project a global customer service team oversaw the operation and provided updates and peace of mind to the customer. As ocean freight is becoming a viable alternative to air cargo, it is vital to work with a courier that can liaise with all the key stakeholders involved, from the pharma manufacturers, shipping lines, port operations, insurance to the temperature-controlled solution providers.

When faced with critical timelines, life science companies rely on Biocair’s experience and know-how gained from more than 30 years’ experience of being a specialist courier for this industry.

Biocair provides the most comprehensive service options available whilst delivering flexible, tailored, cost effective logistics solutions to all clients.

Do you have a similar application? Contact your local Biocair office and speak to one of Biocair's experts.