Stowing Large Loads

New solutions for pallet-sized cargo target costs and risk.

Innovative designs and systems for handling pallet-sized loads of temperature-sensitive cargo have emerged with regularity in recent years, catering in large part to growth in global shipments of pharmaceutical ingredients and products.

These unit load devices (ULDs) encompass metal containers with active mechanical features, and passive shippers that are typically secured under netting on a cookie sheet in aircraft cargo holds.
 
In passive systems, Cold Chain Technologies (CCT; Holliston, MA) plans to introduce six new pallet-sized thermal shippers this year. Scheduled for launch this month, the KoolTemp GTS 6000 is an EPS-based universal pallet shipper for handling room-temperature consignments. The low-cost unit maintains a 2° to 30°C internal climate for 96 hours, says Larry Gordon, CCT’s president.
 
“We have seen a tremendous demand for getting more product packaged for longer-duration shipments. Customers are requesting a lot of international work and more payload capacity,” Gordon says.
 
CCT last year commercialized the KoolTemp GTS 5420 universal shipper for 2° to 8°C and frozen shipments of 120-hour duration. The internal dimensions of the 5420 and new 6000 handle a standard U.S. pallet size of 40 × 48 inches. Two additional units coming out this year are smaller universal pallet-sized shippers.
 
“Many transit lanes are served by smaller planes that can’t handle an LD3-sized pallet. The Boeing 737 (for example) doesn’t have a cargo opening capable of accepting a full size (40 × 48-in.) pallet. Two of our new product introductions are designed to fit these smaller cargo systems,” Gordon says.
 
Minnesota Thermal Science plans to launch its first pallet shipper this month, based on its Golden Hour technology and Credo Cube TIC system, the company says.
 
Entropy Solutions last year up-sized to the 16-cu-ft Greenbox Pallet shipper featuring its phase change technology. With the AcuTemp RKN container, CSafe LLC provided an alternative to Envirotainer’s e1 active container in metal boxes with heating and cooling systems. CSafe recently reported that three major pharma firms completed operational qualification on the RKN.
 
Solutions just released to market introduce new configurations in passive systems as well as new thermal control technology.
 
Farrar Scientific (Marietta, OH), teamed with ULD Logistics (Delta, OH), has launched a ULD shipper with a proprietary system that handles longer hold time durations in more extreme ambient conditions.
The PharmaPort 360 Model 7628 provides both heating and cooling without using active electrical systems in transit for temperature maintenance. The cargo unit supports a passive mode of operation through the use of regenerative heat exchangers for heating and cooling.
 
“The PharmaPort 360 is basically passive when in transport mode. We are labeled as “active cargo” versus an active ULD, as there are no refrigeration systems or electrical resistance heaters running,” says Scott Farrar, president, Farrar Scientific.
 
HANDLING CLIMATE EXTREMES
On the ground, the unit is charged like an active ULD heating and cooling container.
The charging regenerates heat exchangers that contain a PCM-like material that retains heat or cold.
During transport, the shipper functions like a ULD that uses dry ice for cooling, but minus the dry ice, and with the ability to heat as well as cool. Fans blow air across heat exchanger plates with volumes and surface areas configured for certain air velocities, Farrar says.
 
The system avoids dry ice handling issues and Hazmat charges normally associated with dry ice. “There is no chance of interference with aircraft electronics, so it can go anywhere regardless of fire suppression systems. The PharmaPort 360 can be packed tight into the ULD or cargo compartment (on a cookie sheet), as no air is exchanged outside of the container,” Farrar says.
 
The unit features independent redundant systems for heating, cooling and air distribution during tarmac recharging and in transport. A built-in Elpro Libero data logger system supports 21 CFR 11 documentation and downloading to computer USB ports for generating PDF files.
 
The PharmaPort 360 is “super-insulated” with insulation R-value of 70-plus. The insulation isolates the interior for better extreme temperature resistance, and allows the regenerative storage devices to last longer before recharging, Farrar says. 
 
“The bulk of our business comes from the ultra-low temperature market, so this is the type of insulated construction we do typically. There is tremendous demand for containers with capability for extreme temperatures. People are concerned about heating system failures in aircraft, and protecting payloads when cargo is loaded and unloaded in minus 30°C environments,” he says.
 
“The temperature-controlled ULD’s on the market are 2° to 8°C boxes. We are a 5°C box, plus or minus 0.5°. (And) we very easily handle extreme ambient temperatures of plus 50°C to minus 40°C for extended periods of time,” Farrar adds.
 
Farrar Scientific is setting up a dedicated facility to manufacture the units.
“This is a large volume product for us. As a result of the new requirements the industry is facing, the demand for temperature controlled containers for drug shipments is huge. And there is a significant shortage of containers for supporting global shipments,” says Farrar.
 
As the exclusive distributor, ULD Logistics will lease and service the units from depots in Delta, OH; Paso Robles, CA; St. Paul, MN; and in Amsterdam, Frankfurt, and Shanghai, says Bill Toedter, vice president, ULD Logistics.
The ULD leasing firm is setting up a preventive maintenance network for the reefers with IRM Worldwide and training technicians at ULD Logistics service centers for repairing and validating the shippers on a periodic basis for pharma customers, Toedter says.
 
MORE SPACE FOR
THE MONEY
EnviroCooler LLC (Huntington Beach, CA) is offering a new ULD for large pallet-sized loads designed to maximize LD3 cargo space on an aircraft. The CryoSphere & BioSphere P-O29 is stored on a cookie sheet as opposed to inside an airline LD3 metal container. In foregoing the container storage, the unit provides 20% more product load area, says Rod Derifield, president.
 
“Our original BioSphere, the P002, was designed to (optionally) fit inside the LD3 container. The P-029 takes up the whole space of the LD3 position (providing an internal payload area of 54 × 46.25 × 46.75 in.).
“The P-O29 features a robust polyurethane construction so you don’t need the LD3 container to provide additional protection for the contents from physical damage,” Derifield says.
 
“We are helping pharmaceutical customers drive down the cost per dosage or per ml by providing more space for the same transport cost,” Derifield says.
 
EnviroCooler designed and validated the unit with a top five global biopharma company that was looking to maximize space for frozen shipments of 120-liter and 300-liter tanks of bulk ingredients.
 
Packed with estimated 3000 lb of payload, the universal summer and winter unit passed the highest ISTA and ASTM testing thresholds, Derifield says.
 
In thermal testing, payload temperature stayed under minus 20°C for 144 hours.
Physical testing included drop, slide impact, vibration, and vibration-with-fork lift tests. “The same container can be used with gel packs instead of dry ice for palletized refrigerated product,” Derifield adds.
 
EnviroCooler provides its passive systems in a range of sizes for container and non-container transportation including quarter- and half-container loads and large coolers that fit into LD9 containers. The P-029 addresses potential air capacity constraints in a down market in which airlines have pulled larger aircraft from service, says Margaret Clayton, regional sales manager, EnviroCooler.
 
“The P-029 allows more options on the type of aircraft that can be used. You are not committed to one or two spaces on an aircraft. Also, we are staying under a very critical limit on dry ice which affords you a lot more opportunity to put more product on the plane,” Clayton says.
 
The unit’s performance duration of 144 hours without reicing or repackaging “mitigates a lot of risk, in particular for international shipments. We are addressing duration and cost-effectiveness for the global pharmaceutical marketplace,” Clayton adds.
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