Freightshop’s Potted History


When Andrew Cameron lived in Katanning in the early 1990s, he observed large volumes of perishable cargo headed for Perth to be put on flights to Cocos Islands. Never one to miss an opportunity, he soon had a delivery service from Katanning to Perth, an agent on Cocos Island and a fledgling business - Cocos Freight Company was born.

After a while it became obvious that it would be more functional if there was one person in Perth and another on Cocos Island, so he co-opted an old friend, Kel Watkins. Andrew went to live on Cocos and the company continued to be small but functional. Not one to be idle, Andrew developed a clam farm and also managed the Cocos Club.

They needed a name and logo and Kel came up with the name of Freightshop because at the time we were doing some shopping for Cocos Islanders. Who remembers Cocos Shopping Trolley?

Ansett folded so Danzas became the Cargo Terminal Operator and National Jet Systems the aircraft operator. NJS approached Freightshop and asked if they would be the sole handlers and CTO. Within 7 days, we relocated from our warehouse in O’Connor to a Customs Bonded warehouse near the International Terminal. We purchased a truck and had it licensed to go airside, were granted Customs and Quarantine permissions and began handling all cargo for Cocos and Christmas Island.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this, Andrew went up to Thailand and set up a craypot making factory. He did keep coming up with ideas. Kel always likened him to Napoleon who set out to conquer the next thing while he (Kel) came along afterwards and dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s. It was a perfect business partnership.

About halfway through Freightshop’s life Andrew told Kel that he might consider retiring and asked Kel if he would consider buying his share. Kel agreed so Andrew promptly announced that he was going shopping. Where? To buy a boat! “Just 4 Play” ended up on Cocos, as did Andrew.

Kel’s son Drew came back from an indulgent life in Broome and began working with Freightshop. Freightshop outgrew the premises and moved again. Staff numbers slowly grew. Freightshop office employees have included Nicole Boase, Bonnie Love and Penelope Dunn. All of who have since moved on. Penelope had only been with us for a couple of weeks when Francis, a Chinese delivery driver came in and was introduced to her. He struggled with pronouncing Penelope, so he declared “I will call you Ping, like my wife”. So Ping she became, and still is.

Freightshop’s slow but steady growth necessitated another move, this time to Airport Park to much bigger premises. Drew was largely running the business by now. Kel wanted someone to sit in his chair and manage the financial side of the business. At the fourth attempt to find the perfect person, Amber Ku joined Freightshop. Sometime later, Ping was ready to move on so Amber suggested a friend and Paige Foong (now Paige den Dryver) joined us. Then we secured Ben Lukich from Qantas and our staff was nearly complete.

To assist Ben in the warehouse during peak freighter week we scoured the earth for the perfect part time candidate, and Hugh French started with Freightshop in June 2012 to fill in the role of driver, storeman, coffee maker and all round tough guy. To round off the warehouse staff, we thought Ben and Hugh could use someone to impart their wealth of knowledge upon, so we contacted MEGT who sent us our trainee Mark Nation. He is the perfect fit and has grown to be an asset to the team.

Kel thought he was ready to retire but could not quite let go, so Amber and staff selected the date of July 26th 2014 and informed him that his send-off party was organised. He got the message and now only goes into the office on Wednesday mornings. All of our customers are well aware that Drew and the current staff group are brilliant and are keeping a 25-year old (as of October 2017) business running smoothly.

In October 2015 Freightshop was awarded the contract with Virgin Australia to manage all air services between the islands. With 7 days’ notice all was all systems go! The team pulled together and we managed to set in place a framework that is still in use 2 years later (with some adjustments). Remaining “fluid” and adaptable is integral to working for the IOT.

That is: if anything is ever smooth about air freight to the Indian Ocean Territories. In its life Freightshop has used countless methods and airlines to get freight to the Islands. This includes transits through Learmonth, Port Hedland, Jakarta, Singapore, Denpassar and Kuala Lumpur. We have used trucks to Port Hedland, Island Bound Holiday’s plane, Sempati, Merpati, Cardig, National Jet Systems, Cobham, Qantas, Garuda, Alliance, Singapore Airlines and various incarnations of Christmas Island Community Airlines.

Freightshop is 25 years strong and have proven time and again that we can get the job done! Working together with the IOT community we can find the right solution and look forward to doing so into the future.