Caribbean Connection

Franklin “Bobby” Vieira may have learned the shipping business in Trinidad, but he was taught the rules of entrepreneurship when he moved to the U.S.

The CEO of Caribbean Cargo & Package Services, a shipping company based at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, built his company into a 15-employee firm that generated approximately $750,000 in revenues for 2003. He expects to break the $1 million mark for 2004.

Caribbean Cargo & Package Services has also established an office and collection facility in Brooklyn, New York. This location accommodates customers who have difficulty getting to Kennedy Airport. With contract agents who handle the “last mile” portion of the shipping, the company’s customers are individuals and small businesses that ship merchandise to the Caribbean.

Launched in 1999, with partner Harold Smith, the company’s director of finance and administration, Caribbean Cargo & Package Services was financed with $50,000 in personal savings that was used for office supplies, hand trucks, forklifts, and other such equipment. Monthly rent at the airport totals about $3,000 with an additional $4,000 to $5,000 a month in maintenance. Despite these costs, being at the airport is desirable because of proximity to cargo planes as well as the high volume of traffic. “Operating out of the airport gives you a little more clout in dealing with large companies and carriers,” says Vieira.

Caribbean Cargo & Package Services has business alliances with several couriers, including CaribExpress Air Cargo Service in Washington, D.C., and Trans Caribbean Cargo International in Miami. It also provides an air express service through StarPac, which is a courier operation of Caribbean Star Airlines. These ties allow the company to pick up and deliver cargo, sometimes within 24 to 48 hours, on a door-to-door basis, especially in Barbados.

Red tape is something Vieira became all too familiar with as the company had to get authorized as a cargo movement facilitator by the Transport Security Administration, which oversees the nation’s transportation systems. “We have to deal with the federal government, the city, the state, customs, and the Federal Aviation Administration,” says Smith. “And then you’ve got to put your procedures in place and then go into operation, and refine things as you go along.”

Looking ahead, Vieira plans to expand the business into California and Europe, especially London. “For next year, I’m looking at $4 million to $5 million in revenues, because we’re pushing.”

Caribbean Cargo & Package Services; JFK Airport, Building 80, Jamaica, NY 11430; 718-995-2055;