The keys to succeed with pharma cold chain transportation from Mexico

Rosabel Calderon Strategic Account Manager

Mexico has potential for becoming a large exporter of pharmaceuticals, while having an attractive home market for pharmaceutical sales as well. For those who want to take advantage of the rising opportunities in Mexico, there are specific challenges that must be taken into account regarding cold chain transportation of high-quality pharmaceuticals.

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Mexico’s large and growing middle class is expecting – and demanding – increasingly advanced medical treatment. The pharmaceutical industry has responded by investing in manufacturing of high-quality pharmaceuticals for the domestic market. Export volumes have so far been limited and have mostly targeted Latin America. However, building on the experience from the production for the large domestic market, this could very well change in the coming years.

For pharmaceutical companies looking into investing in Mexico, the keys to succeed with pharmaceutical cold chain transportation is to understand the local prerequisites. Below is a short summary of what to pay attention to.

Education necessary for improved capabilities

Whereas import volumes of temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals to Mexico are fairly large, export volumes have so far been limited. As a result, experience and knowledge of cold chain transportation for exports are not as developed and education becomes key to advance capabilities. Since cold chain transportation comprises many service providers, all partners involved must fully understand the cold chain.


More service providers are involved in the cold chain

Freight forwarders in Mexico contract almost everything, from packing and transportation to purchase of dry ice. Consequently, more partners will be involved in the cold chain. Again, education and training of all partners are important for performance and regulatory compliance.

Infrastructure challenges that must be taken into account

Whereas cold chain infrastructure for imports to Mexico is fairly well-functioning, infrastructure for exports is limited, since export volumes of temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals have been fairly small up until now. For example, most forwarders and airlines do not have their own storage facilities but use the airport facilities instead.


Challenges with high altitudes and pollution

Mexico has two entries for global air travel and transportation, Mexico City and Guadalajara. Due to the fact that Mexico is a large and mountainous country, and Mexico City is one of the most populous cities in the world, high altitudes as well as air pollution can be a challenge. If the pilot deems that conditions are not good enough, flights may go empty or with reduced payload. This means that shipping will be delayed, and cargo will be left at the airport. These circumstances must be taken into account when planning the cold chain.

Increased regulatory control

Whereas laws and regulations for pharmaceutical transport are not as strict as in the European countries and the United States, regulations are becoming stricter and the Mexican government has increased its focus on law enforcement. As always when transporting pharmaceuticals, a good advice is to have thorough Standard Operating Procedures, SOPs, in place to ensure performance and to comply with regulations.

Cargo for exports is often checked three to four times before loaded on the aircraft.

Customs clearance procedures

A common mistake when importing pharmaceuticals to Mexico is to not really understand the complexity of the customs clearance procedures. Customs clearance can take from 1-3 days if the paperwork is done correctly. For import clearance, if the customer wants to keep the cargo inside the container until delivery to site, customs clearance has to be done for the cargo and a temporary import documentation must be completed for the container. Once the empty container is returned to the airport, temporary import documents have to be closed. For exports, documentation must be provided one day in advance. Cargo for exports is often checked three to four times before loaded on the aircraft.


Global outreach for active cold chain transportation

Since 2014, Mexico City has a station for lease of active containers for transportation of temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals. This means that the basic prerequisites for an active cold chain are met for transporting highly sensitive pharmaceuticals from Mexico to the rest of the world.

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