Article: Hand Carry - Dissecting the Myth

By Simon Ellison |

What is a hand carry? 

Hand carries are where a person takes the shipping container with all the necessary paperwork onto the plane with them. The theory behind this strategy is that it provides a clear chain of custody and better control for the therapy developer.

World Courier Hand Carry

Within the advanced therapy market there is a perception that hand carries are the safest and quickest way to transport therapies and starting materials. There is also the impression that this system avoids the need for security clearance and x-ray.

Remarkably, this misguided logic would imply that as long as you tell the Customs Officer that the box contains a life-changing therapy, and therefore they cannot conduct an x-ray, they will simply smile and let you through. Reassuringly, customs officers are not this generous and all shipments undergo stringent assessments before they can fly.

Important shipment information

CGT Import Info 

Providing a quick and safe solution

Hand carries may appear to be the quickest and safest system to transport life-changing therapies, but they still pose significant challenges. They have their place in small-scale or early clinical trials, but unless a therapy developer can afford to hire a large team for the sole purpose of escorting their packages, it is impossible to scale into economic and practical commercial reality.

Specialty couriers such as World Courier have the systems in place to track packages throughout their shipments’ journeys, either as hand carry or in the aircraft hold. We also have significant experience with import requirements to manage security obligations, delivering secure shipments without x-ray exposure.  

World Courier will only call upon its own employees for hand carries, which can have cost implications, but more importantly ensures quality of service and compliance with the relevant standard operating procedures and regulations. Not all couriers have this policy, so costs may vary.

Above all, our qualified packaging systems, audited relationships with airlines and global infrastructure help to securely manage shipments in the hold of the aircraft. This produces a scalable, cost-effective and robust system to transport advanced therapies across international borders.


About the Author

A portrait of Simon Eliison.

Simon Ellison

Cell and Gene Therapy Service Director 
World Courier
Simon is the Cell and Gene Therapy Service Director at World Courier.  His role is to develop a portfolio of global logistic and supporting service strategies that take the advanced therapy industry forwards. Whilst at the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult he identified the need for, and built the Seamless Freight portfolio.  He also helped develop the commercial operating model for the Catapult Manufacturing Centre that resulted in the first collaborators entering, and the start of a cluster forming around this unique facility. Prior to this Simon was the Head of Commercial at NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) where he merged the needs of the industry with NHSBTs manufacturing and supply chain capability. This enabled multiple UK and international organisations to move their therapies forwards.
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