PUNE The Pune airport is gearing up to transport “Covishield” vaccine produced by city-based Serum Institute of India (SII). The vaccine has been approved by Indian regulators for restricted emergency use.
The airport currently has a cargo capacity of transporting at least 500 tonnes daily with the current number of flights operating which can be optimized to over 1,714 tonnes if the airport functions to maximum capacity, said officials.
Kuldeep Singh Rishi, director, Pune airport, said, “We are prepared to transport up to 500 tonnes of cargo daily with the current number of flights operating. We have the equipment, manpower, aircraft and everything is ready.”
“We are only awaiting the consignment to reach the airport. Till now no vaccine cargo has moved from the airport. Currently, we are moving 150 tonnes of cargo from Pune airport every day to various locations,” he said.
In an earlier interview to Hindustan Times, Adar Poonawalla, chief executive officer, SII, had said, “They (Indian government) have to still sign a purchase order with us and tell us where to send the vaccine, and seven to ten days after that, we can deliver the vaccine.”
“We have already offered to them in writing a special price of ₹200, only for the government, for the first 100 million doses and then the price will be higher or different,” he said.
An SII official on the condition of anonymity said that the talks are still going on and that no vaccine has been dispatched off yet.
The airport director also said that additional cargo responsibilities would not affect the regular flight operations as the flight movements have gone down drastically.
He said, “We have only 35 flights operating currently which can carry up to 500 tonnes. The number of passenger flights operating now has come down, in March-February we had about 180 take-off and landing flights with close to 27,000 passengers which have now come down to only 10,000 passengers.”
“The air force has allocated us slots for about 10 flights every hour and with the runway available for 12 hours, 8 am to 8 pm, we can operate 120 flights daily take-off and landing. However, with the social distancing norms in place we have additional restrictions which need not be followed for cargo,” he said.
With the current ongoing re-carpeting work going on, the airport runway is only available from 8 am to 8 pm for the next few months.
Singh also added that “Once someone approaches us for cargo, we just need to check for suspicious material and if everything is cleared it will take about 30-40 minutes for the cargo loading process.”
During Wednesday’s meeting, SII assessed the preparedness of the airport and the officials were asked to keep its manpower and equipment ready which will be put to use when required.
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