Business

Doing It All: Al Services Ltd.

truckStory & Photos by Kathy Borsuk

Although the name for the Turks & Caicos’ newest freight services company actually comes from a childhood nickname for its managing director, McAllister Hanchell, “Al Services Ltd.” accurately describes the concept that sets it apart. McAllister, best known these days as “Piper,” explains what makes AlServ so special, “In a nutshell, all the shipping services that our customers need are handled by us, in-house. This lets us serve our customers–both individuals and commercial–efficiently and personally.”

The comprehensive list of services goes beyond ocean freight shipping to include customs brokerage, trucking, freight forwarding, purchasing, same and next-day priority parcel delivery and complete moving packages both locally and internationally.

AlServ is the agent for Antillean Marine Shipping Corporation, a Miami-based carrier that currently delivers ocean freight to Providenciales weekly and South Caicos bi-monthly. They run on a unique timetable that departs from their Miami River terminal on Wednesday evenings to arrive at Providenciales’ South Dock on Saturday mornings.

This has proven very useful to AlServ customers for several reasons, Piper says. “Antillean’s warehouse is at a convenient location in the heart of Miami and all cargo is received right where the ships are loaded. This allows for a delivery cut-off time just a few hours before the ship sets sail.” Bills of lading are available on Friday mornings, allowing Provo customers to have customs entry forms processed on Friday (avoiding the typical early-week rush).

laflechaBy Monday morning, containers are unloaded at AlServ’s bonded warehouse and cargo is ready to be picked up or delivered. Clients shipping full container loads can actually get their cargo on Saturday, Piper explains. “The supermarkets are able to pre-clear perishables, so we can truck their containers to the stores on Saturday morning, allowing fresh foods to be available on the busiest shopping day. Clients such as construction companies, who are willing to pay customs officers overtime charges for weekend inspections, can also have their containers on-site on Saturday.” (The current South Caicos schedule is slightly different, departing from Miami on Thursday evening and arriving on-island a week later, detouring through the Dominican Republic.)

AlServ’s staff of 16 is kept busy handling the variety of other services they offer. As independent customs brokers, AlServ guarantees customs clearance and delivery within 24 hours of arrival via all ports of entry and with any carrier . . . not just their own. Their fleet of vehicles has the capacity to deliver everything from full containers to heavy items requiring lifts to small packages.

Piper is especially proud of AlServ’s freight forwarding and purchasing services, “We work with Tropical Transfer in Miami who can either forward your cargo from its original destination on to Turks & Caicos or transfer it from Miami to the next shipper to continue onwards. They will also purchase specific items for our customers and make sure they are loaded on the boat or, if time is a priority, deliver to American Airlines’ cargo facility for same or next-day parcel shipment.”

AlServ also makes life easier for folks moving to or from the Islands. Says Piper, “We’ll pack or unpack your goods for home or office, move them to or from the dock and clear them through customs on either end . . . no third parties need be involved.”

A native of South Caicos, Piper, son of Edward Hanchell and Ena Rigby, got his start in the freight business soon after graduating from Marjorie Basden High School in 1985 and moving to Providenciales. He served as a government customs checker for one year, did a short stint as a stevedore, then worked full time for the next 12 years at Cairsea, the Islands’ original freight services company. Of this, Piper says, “I learned a lot working with Rodney and Sharon Thompson.” But by late 1998, Piper knew there was the need for a more comprehensive freight services company and decided that he was the man to start it.

AlServ officially opened for business on November 1, 1998 with three employees offering customs brokerage, light trucking and priority parcel services. Within a year, Piper was ready to expand. He says, “I started researching South Florida shipping lines on the Internet and Antillean Marine was one company I approached. They were a family business that had served the Caribbean since 1963 and had excellent ships, facilities and equipment. They agreed that the Turks & Caicos were ready for another reliable ocean freight service offering competitive pricing and strategic timing. We spent eight months negotiating the deal.”

Things moved quickly after that, with AlServ’s brand-new, 8,620 sq. ft., South Dock-based warehouse/office opening on December 16, 2000. Today, the AlServ/Antillean team handles 30% of the Islands’ ocean freight and maintains a long list of clients large and small, many initially referrals from satisfied customers.

What does Piper see as the key to his success? The upbeat businessman says it all ties into the company’s name, which emphasizes service. “I’m always pleasant to my customers and they never see me have a bad day. The same is true for our staff, who’ll always be sure to give you a big grin. I also stay involved in every aspect of the business, from coordinating shipments to loading freight, driving trucks and even nailing crates if need be.” (Piper’s office window looks directly into the warehouse!) He also praises his primarily native staff, most especially Office Manager Patsy Jennings who has been with AlServ since its start and his girlfriend Edith Cox, who serves as accountant and has been supportive since the beginning.

In today’s tough times, Piper is undaunted by the challenges ahead. “I am on top of things,” he states with confidence. He is committed to remaining competitive and streamlining costs without laying off staff or cutting back on service. In fact, AlServ will soon offer weekly freight service to South Caicos, where they plan to build a state-of-the-art warehouse and office. Antillean’s route will also expand to add bi-monthly service from the Dominican Republic to Providenciales, opening up a second, low-priced marketplace to the Turks & Caicos, and may also include a second sailing from Miami.

For more information, call (649) 941-3267, e-mail al-services@tciway.tc or visit www.al-services.tc.



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