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A Cathay Pacific aircraft is seen in front of an air traffic control tower at the Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong on Oct. 24, 2020.TYRONE SIU/Reuters

Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd is expanding its cold storage facilities at its cargo terminal to allow it to temporarily hold more than 8.6 million vaccine doses a day as countries begin approving COVID-19 vaccines.

Its current capacity is about 7.1 million doses and a new cold storage room will allow for a further 1.5 million doses, Cathay Director Cargo Tom Owen said in a newsletter on Friday.

Airlines battered by COVID-19 are preparing for key roles in the mass vaccine rollout that promises to unlock an immediate boost for the sector – and beyond that, its own recovery and survival.

“We are the third-largest freight carrier in the world, and with our 20 dedicated freighters and cargo bellies of passenger aircraft supporting our extensive freighter network, we stand ready to assist with what will be the biggest humanitarian response to a situation involving civil aviation that anyone has ever seen,” Owen said.

Cathay has invested in a new generation track-and-trace system called Ultra Track to allow freight forwarders to monitor the condition of vaccine shipments in real-time.

“We will be offering the service free of charge for any COVID-19 vaccine shipments from all of the vaccine manufacturing centres,” Owen said.

Ultra Track uses a low-energy Bluetooth transmitter that can record and transmit GPS positions, temperature, vibration and humidity in real-time.

More than half of vaccines go to waste globally every year because of temperature control, logistics and shipment-related issues.

Logistical hurdles are a significant risk for efforts to rapidly distribute COVID-19 vaccines, but they have resulted in booming business for companies that sell technology for monitoring shipments from factory freezer to shot in the arm.

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