To get to their office, you need a government-granted badge. You drive into the cargo entrance of the Port of Palm Beach, through security gates and curve past industrial-sized freezers lined with cold containers known as “reefers.” Tucked around the back of the building, another badge-mandated entrance awaits. Enter, walk down a hallway, then knock on a door. The secretary will let you in and tell you they’re in the back. The smell of brisket makes your mouth water. It is back here, in an office filled with old photos, piles of paperwork, miniature model cranes and an old Dell computer that you’ll find Glen, Tina and Joey finishing up lunch, leftovers from last night’s Park Avenue BBQ Grille, and talking about the next shipment going out, the next client coming in and their next vacation to Blizzard Beach. Glen is the model builder, Tina the organized one, and Joey is being primed to be the third generation of Dias’ who will carry Heavy Lift Services into their next 50 years of family-owned operations.
July 1, 2015 marks the 50 year anniversary for Heavy Lift Services, a company that began operations when West Palm Beach still called 305 its area code. Glen Dias, the current owner and president of the company, was born into the maritime industry. His father, Alan Dias, started Heavy Lift in 1965, after relocating from Miami with West India Shipping Company. Alan built his business within the Port of Palm Beach, serving as the stevedore for West India Shipping Company and other port tenants who sent cargo from Florida to the Caribbean. The revenues generated from in-port operations allowed the company to expand to meet the needs of other exporters. By 1970, Heavy Lift Services was the only company on the east coast, other than government-operated stevedores, that could lift 300 tons from rail or truck to vessel. A stevedore is a firm that employs longshoremen for the purpose of loading and unloading vessels. Longshoreman: an individual employed in a port to load and unload ships.
A lifelong Florida resident, Glen came on to work for the family business in 1973 as a warehouse floor sweeper. From there, he moved into unloading rail cars (by hand) before learning the responsibilities of management. As he grew into the company, the company grew. Today’s clients include United Abaco Shipping Company (which calls upon the Abacos and Nassau), Carib USA Services, and even Tropical Shipping in days gone past, as well as many others shipping goods and products to the Caribbean and beyond. Over the past 50 years, Heavy Lift Services has loaded foods, dry goods, construction equipment, and supplies for hurricane reliefs throughout the Caribbean. They’ve helped send pipe to oil rigs in the North Sea and hydrofoils to Israel. Their stories on shipment requests and retrievals can quickly turn extraordinary, but require one-on-one sessions to hear them. The stories take time, but are more than worth the wait, as they’re now on their third generation of perfected telling.
Joey, the son of Glen and Tina, has been a part of the Port of Palm Beach since he was 6 months old. He grew up in this community, and attended Jupiter High School. Polite, reserved and in a well-worn hat, employees and partners of the port have watched him not only grow up, but also grow into and learn the family business. At 21, he is looking into maritime academies across the nation, although we all know Tina wants him to stay in Florida. Either way, Joey will return once finished to carry on the family legacy.
But it’s not just this family that has taken Heavy Lift through the rise and fall of Cuban trade, through the ebbs and flows of the American economy and up from the trenches of some of the nation’s (and Caribbean’s) most memorable hurricanes. It is their team. Mr. Roland Collier has been a part of Heavy Lift since before it was Heavy Lift. July 1 marks more than his 50-year anniversary with the family that started the firm. He traveled from Miami with Alan Dias in 1962 to start the Port of Palm Beach operations. He knows more of the port’s history than the port knows on its own. And you can still find him, holed up in his office, or out on the shipyard, reminding his teams where supplies need to go and why. He knows which slip is the best for each ship and which parcel of property belongs to whom; a talent only refined with time. And it is the staff at Heavy Lift, which keeps it going - always working, and always polite to those who find their way into their office. They’ve been together a long time, and there is no expectation of that to change.
As the Port of Palm Beach recognizes the achievements of the company, it looks forward to watching its next 50 years of growth, change and success. We congratulate Heavy Lift Services on 50 years of moving cargo to and from the Port and Palm Beach.
Heavy Lift Services is a full-service stevedoring service, handling break-bulk, dry-bulk, project cargo and heavy lift services between Port of Palm Beach and the Caribbean. The company’s experienced, knowledgeable staff and freight handling equipment offer a solid base for safe, efficient operations that allow distributors to rely on a professional ad economically sound solution to cargo shipment.
For more information on Heavy Lift Services, please call 561.848.2319.