What is Shipbroking?
That Shipping is an extremely important part of global trade and the world economy is self-evident, and whilst it is obvious that large volumes of various commodities are transported every day from country to country, few people know what happens to enable these cargoes to be moved. How do you find a ship to carry the cargo you have just sold to an overseas buyer or how do you buy a vessel if you want to be a shipowner? The answer is to talk to your shipbroker.
The role of a shipbroker is to act as an intermediary between the two parties to a contract, whether they are Shipowners and Charterers in the chartering market, or buyers and sellers in the Sale and Purchase market. The broker may be acting particularly for one principal or perhaps is the sole broker between the two contracting parties. He or she will be involved in many stages of the deal: presenting the business to potential clients, negotiating the main terms of the fixture or sale, finalising the details of the contract and following the deal through to its conclusion.
The size and type of vessel involved ranges from coasters carrying a few hundred tons to tankers able to lift several hundred thousand tons, and includes containerships, gas carriers, cruise ships, oil-rigs or ferries - even floating prisons.
Cargoes carried range from raw bulk commodities such as coal, iron ore and crude oil through to finished products carried in containers.
New entrants into the profession do not need to already hold a shipping qualification, but there are degree courses in Maritime Studies at several British universities and elsewhere in the world, and the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers run a course covering a wide range of subjects culminating in an examination to earn membership of the Institute.
London has a greater concentration of shipbrokers than any other city in the world, but the business is truly global and brokers deal with principals, clients and vessels all round the world. Most of the major shipbrokers in London, and many overseas shipping companies are members of the Baltic Exchange, which is situated in the City of London.
The Baltic acts as a regulatory body for its members and provides a forum for shipping information to circulate amongst its members. Peter Kerr-Dineen, joint-chairman of Howe Robinson, was Chairman of the Baltic Exchange from 2003 to 2005.