Passenger aircrafts now allowed to transport pharma exports: DGCA

The development is a welcome measure as restrictions on exports coupled with the logistic issues have put exporters in a disadvantageous position of losing their valued importers, loss of credibility, penalties for delayed supplies, huge demurrages

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the Government of India issued a circular, allowing passenger category aircrafts to transport pharmaceutical medicines and medical equipment as a carriage of cargo, while adhering to specified conditions.

Commenting on the recent announcement by the civil aviation authority of India, Dr Dinesh Dua, Chairman, Pharmexcil said, “The Indian pharma industry is very grateful for the kind intervention of Piyush Goyal, CIM and Hardeep Singh Puri, Civil Aviation Minister of India for understanding our raised concern during the during Zoom Video Call on March 27, 2020 and follow up call on March 31, 2020. During the follow-up video call, I had made a suggestion to the authorities to consider passenger category aircraft for carriage of cargo, as freight charges have shot up badly due to the COVID-19 and subsequent lockdown in the country affecting the Imports and exports. And happy to see the positive reply from the government.”

Earlier, the government had restricted export of 26 APIs/formulation, which resulted in a huge pileup of consignments at different ports as well as pharma units. Most of the manufacturers and exporters had manufactured these listed items before the outbreak of COVID-19 and had planned and committed to shipping the consignments to their customers on agreed timelines.

The reference notification imposing restriction on the export of the listed items with immediate effect has severely impacted the industry, as many numbers of consignments are already lined up for export in the warehouses and ports.

During the video conferencing, he also expressed that the restrictions on exports coupled with the logistic issues are putting exporters in a disadvantageous position of losing their valued importers, loss of credibility, penalties for delayed supplies, huge demurrages. Hence, considering the extraordinary situation the country is facing, the permission of allowing the passenger aircraft is given to scheduled/ non-scheduled operators to use the available passenger category aircraft (without configuration change) for the carriage of cargo.

However, it has also notified the guidelines, which the operators need to obtain permission from DGCA (Air Transport Directorate) after obtaining approval from Flight Standards and Airworthiness directorate before conducting such operations, with other conditions like any cargo on seats or under the seats should be permitted only after specific permission taken in this regard from DGCA (Airworthiness). The operator has to prepare and submit detailed SOP addressing the following minimum areas before airworthiness approval can be considered:
a) Details of specific box/ packet/ container size to be used for on seat and under-seat cargo. The cargo packaging and containers must be capable of self-equalizing pressure.
b) Max Weight limitations to be permitted on the seat and under-seat cargo.
c) Procedure to be followed for restraining the cargo at respective position securely.
d) Preparation of load and trim based on cargo size and weight before every flight.
e) Training on Securing and lashing of cargo on seats/ under the seats for
technicians/ loaders.
f) Familiarisation of Loader/Cabin crew and/ or Medical supervisor (if carried) during cargo operation for exigencies such as required for cargo fire or any other emergency.
g) To and Fro communication system must be serviceable between flight deck and cabin (No MEL release to be allowed).
h) All cargo shall be properly harnessed/ laced to prevent its movement during flight.
i) Procedure for cleaning and use of solvent (as per SRM), in case of spillage of any liquid (either on seat or floor).
j) Procedure for post-flight inspection of all the pax seats /floor area for damage to cushion and disinfection, as applicable.
k) Procedure to ensure that the cargo is secured prior to the ‘Fasten the Seatbelts light.
l) No cargo to be placed on floor area (under seat), if so they need to be secured properly with adhering to floor load limitations (as specified by manufacturer). In such case, the Load and trim sheet needs to be separately approved.
m) Any other requirement given in the manufacturer’s guideline, if available.

Otherwise, an undertaking needs to be submitted by QM regarding non-availability of any specific guideline from the manufacturer in this regard.

A source close to the development also informed that the government authority has asked the committee in-charge of logistics to communicate to the logistic providers in the country to remember that COVID-19 is a temporary situation and if they are taking the advantage of this situation by increasing freight charges, later the government may take strict action against them.

The industry is also waiting eagerly from the government to lift the export restriction on 26 APIs/Formulations.

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