'Great team' at Portarlington ice firm ready play a vital role in Ireland's Covid-19 vaccination plan

Conor Ganly

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Conor Ganly

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news@leinsterexpress.ie

Laois entrepreneur is guest speaker at National Women’s Enterprise Day 2018

Alison Ritchie, Managing Director, Polar Ice Portarlington

A Portarlington company has put the head of the HSE and the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan on notice that it is ready to help with Ireland's Covid-19 vaccination programme.

Polar Ice has tweeted that it has what it takes to help. The firm, which is located in the Portarlington Industrial Estate in the Laois Offaly town, already works with the drug company Pfizer which has made a vaccine which must be stored at extremely cold temperatures in dry ice. 

"We've a great team at Polar Ice HQ in Portarlington, with existing built-in dry ice manufacturing capacity that can meet more than double Ireland’s existing dry ice requirements - we've got Ireland covered," said Polar Ice on social media.

Pfizer’s vaccine must be stored and shipped a constant 70 degrees Celcius below zero which is where the Laois Offaly firm comes into the equation.

Ronan Berry is the General Manager at Polar Ice.

"With the encouraging results for The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, there has been much discussion on the temperature-controlled logistics challenges associated with distributing the vaccine once approval is granted. Vaccines are typically stored at between -2oC and +8oC, while the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine needs to be kept at around -70oC during transportation.

"The extremely low temperature required during transportation makes dry ice an ideal solution. Pfizer plans to ship up to 1.3 billion doses next year, which are to be stored with dry ice in isothermic boxes that will hold up to 975 vials (4,875 doses).

"Polar Ice, as an approved supplier to Ireland’s major pharma and life sciences companies, has already catered for the dry ice used to ship and freeze Covid-19 testing kits sent to Germany for analysis, as Irish testing facilities reached capacity.

"We are well placed to meet periods of high demand; our established manufacturing facility could meet Ireland’s dry ice needs twice over, and there is a further €1m development underway on an adjoining site. We are a niche company; this is what we do day in day out, and we are ready, when required, to rise to this challenge without disruption to our existing customers," he said.

He added that Polar Ice has made its services available to the health service and other authorities. 

"We have contacted the relevant bodies to let them know of our abilities. There are only two large scale producers in the country at present, us and one other that’s part of a global industrial gases company.

"We haven’t been directly approached about supply yet. Plenty of inquiries from companies who may play a role in the roll-out but even they are working off high-level info at present," he said.

He expects the vaccination programme will be quick to get going but when this will happpen is still unknown.

 

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Polar Ice began as a family business established in 1996, with only two employees and with what it describes as a vision to develop the dry ice market in Ireland. Initially manufacturing ‘wet’ ice and importing dry ice from the mainland UK, the company says it has focused solely on dry ice manufacturing since 2002.

Today, Polar Ice employs a team of 18 people. With a dedicated production plant based in the midlands and depots in Dublin, Cork, and Portadown, Polar Ice claims to be is the leading manufacturer and supplier of Dry Ice in Ireland.

The company says dry ice is the common term for carbon dioxide in a solid-state. It is so-called because it does not melt into a liquid. Instead, it gradually reverts to its original gas form. 

Polar Ice Ltd had cause to celebrate recently as our four dedicated delivery drivers were recognised as Transport Heroes in the Fleet Transport Awards. 

The four team members live in Portarlington and all have been employed for a number of years with the company. Ronan Dunne, Raivo Podnieks, Anthony Crosbie and Stephen Flanagan are playing a key role delivering dry ice to all major industries and to companies and research organisations leading the fight against Covid-19.