Air Cargo Integrators (ACI) CEO Lionel Smith is surveying the trade show
scene at the TIACA Air Cargo Forum that took place in Toronto, Canada,
in mid-October 2018.
As he looks up and down the aisle, Lionel,
at six feet, seven inches tall, enjoys a unique vantage point.
Born in Kenya and on the scene in Dubai
cargo for the past several decades, Smith is a transportation executive
that stands out head and shoulders above the crowd. He joins a cadre of
special people we have known during our 44 years on this beat.
The fact is, whether in Dubai or JFK or
Toledo, Ohio, air cargo centers have brought some very special people
to the fore.
Sean McCool in Dublin; Robert “Peachy”
Keen at LHR; Jack Kane at ORD for Flying Tigers; Maria Canino, who in
1978 was top cargo executive at Kuwait Airways in New York; Buz Whalen
and Rudy Auslander at JAL; Jim Larsen, first at Seaboard and later at
Port Authority of New York & New Jersey; Claude Bijaoui at CDG &
Miami Cargo . . . the list goes on.
All were/are unique and have driven higher
the art of cargo sales, marketing, ground handling, and freight forwarding.
Fear To Tread
Lionel Smith not only stands above. In a
crowd of ground handlers he also stands out for his inventiveness, love
of the business, and openhearted effort to deliver cargo where others
fear to tread.
We met Lionel a decade ago in 2008 at the
bustling Dubai Airport Free Zone. He was serving as managing director
of ACI during a time when he was overseeing many successful cargo charter
flights across the world, especially in outsized projects, transit shipments,
emergency relief, and air drops in war zones including Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I recall that we were flying charter
flights into Kabul, Afghanistan, where Air Cargo Integrators Afghanistan
Ltd. was situated.
“ACI worked with WSI World Security
Initiatives (WSI) Kabul, to deliver value added services including airport
reception; trans-shipment i.e. air to air, sea to air, freight reception,
and door-to-door service from Baghdad and Erbil.
“We also were early boots on the ground,
offering door-to-door delivery service within Afghanistan from our bonded
warehouse facility located on Jalalabad Road, Kabul.
“ACI was also very early in, offering
several weekly frequencies a week to Baghdad International Airport (BIAP).”
Today based at Dubai World Central (DWC),
Smith has opened a giant cargo warehouse that looks like it is ten blocks
long. They painted the place bright white.
But that is not the big deal here—what
goes on inside stands out.
The company also operates offices in Mumbai,
Nairobi, and London Heathrow.
The manner that Lionel has gone about his
business, especially the passion in the way he stands up for his customers
and backs his product to a degree that is uncommon today, is just outstanding.
“‘People, Partnership, and Performance’
are at the forefront of our business philosophy,” Lionel says.
“ACI Logistics counts our people as
our strongest asset.
“Passion for work, altruistic commitment,
and business acumen have to date crafted strong partnerships with our
“We take pride in what we have achieved
and remain committed to consistently providing quality Warehousing, Freight
Forwarding, and Logistic solutions to all our clients, placing emphasis
on safety, quality, and sustainability in all areas of our work.
“ACI offers a full portfolio of reliable,
high quality air, sea, and rail freight services for cargo of all sizes,
including general forwarding, contract management, project forwarding,
and break bulk management,” Lionel said.
“We work on an equal footing with
everyone,” Lionel smiled, adding, “We never talk down to anyone!”