When did you start the work to achieve CEIV Fresh Certification?
We were approached by the Airport Authority Hong Kong to initiate the CEIV Fresh programme in September last year. We then obtained the checklist and guidelines from IATA. We are a modern facility so there were no obvious gaps between our infrastructure and equipment and the requirements, so we signed a contract with IATA at the end of that month.
What was the motivation to achieve certification?
All the stakeholders at the airport, led by the Airport Authority, share a vision of the importance of cargo to Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA). We want to maintain its leading position. We have been the world’s busiest cargo airport in the world for nine consecutive years.
CEIV Fresh is significant because Hong Kong imports so much of its food. About 72 per cent of the perishable products we handle at the Cathay Pacific Cargo Terminal is bound for Hong Kong and leaves our Perishable Handling Centre to go straight to market. Last year, HKIA handled 380,000 tonnes of fresh cargo, and the bulk of that was for import.
The reason we took such an aggressive timeline is because we wanted to announce certification at the World Cargo Symposium in March so that we could get the message to the industry.
How were you able to achieve certification so quickly?
We had already been through CEIV Pharma, which is very stringent, so our facility was up to a certain standard. We already offered temperature-controlled storage that can be partitioned so that we can segregate space by temperature zones and product types. And it’s all under CCTV coverage and 24/7 temperature monitoring. The only area that required work was in training our people.
What was the overall process?
There are three stages. The first stage is the training. IATA tells us what the regulations are and how we need to comply with all the requirements in order to get the certificate. The second stage is an interim assessment during which IATA checks our facility and our documentation handling to identify any gaps we need to address before the actual validation. We started the training in November. The assessment was done in December and the validation was done in February. The validation is carried out by independent validators, who are specialists in perishable products.
What did the training involve?
Training was quite challenging because of the short timeframe. We have around 1,500 sub-contracting staff, plus 500 of our own people who needed to be trained within a three-month period. The training started in November, using a ‘train the trainer’ model. We put our trainers into training with IATA, then they designed their own course for our people and part of this involved using computer-based training (CBT), especially for assessments. We also trained the sub-contractors’ trainers.
What do people do now that is different to before?
Before having an integrated standard, people followed guidelines unique to each shipper, airline or product. People just did as the guidelines said, but without knowing why. The focus was taking shipments from a cold place, putting them in another cold place – and as quickly as possible. Now with the CEIV training, they get a more in-depth knowledge about handling fresh products.
This means they know how to control the environment to keep flowers fresh, for example. We also found out that certain fruits cannot be kept close to each other, such as bananas and apples, because the bananas cause the apples to ripen too quickly. Now when our people receive a shipment, they check the condition of the packaging. If the box is damaged they know it needs to be segregated from other products to limit contamination. This sort of knowledge and expertise has been greatly enhanced, and most importantly, the culture of Freshness Respected is nurtured.
What is your message to the market?
We are telling everyone that we are ready, we are capable and even better than before.