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Shipbroking is a financial service, which forms part of the global shipping industry. Shipbrokers are specialist intermediaries/negotiators (i.e. brokers) between shipowners and charterers who use ships to transport cargo, or between buyers and sellers of ships.
Some brokerage firms have developed into large companies, incorporating departments specialising in various sectors, e.g. Dry Cargo Chartering, Tanker Chartering, Container Chartering, Sale & Purchase, Demolition and Research. Other "boutique" companies concentrate on specific sectors of the shipping market.
The principal shipping and shipbroking centres are London, New York and Singapore. Tokyo has a longstanding tradition in shipping/shipbroking, which is now more focussed on Japanese domestic trade. Other places continue to develop in international shipping services, such as: Hong Kong, Shanghai, Delhi and Mumbai; Copenhagen, Geneva, Genoa, Hamburg, Oslo, Paris and Piraeus in Europe; and in North America, Connecticut, Houston and Montreal are important shipbroking centres.
Until recently, it was commonplace for shipbrokers to cover more than one discipline, although nowadays the vast majority of shipbrokers specialise. The Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers sets educational standards throughout the industry, Fellowship of which is considered a great honour.
Shipbroking can be categorised as follows:
Sale and purchase
S&P brokers handle the buying and selling of existing vessels in the secondary market or new ships (called newbuildings, in industry parlance). S&P brokers discuss opportunities and market trends with shipowners, charterers, investors and bankers, report on market sales, vessel values, market trends and activity. When a shipowner has a vessel to sell or is looking for a vessel to acquire, the shipbroker will source the market for suitable tonnage, discuss with the counterparty or their broker the main points of a transaction and they eventually negotiate all the details. During the negotiations, the shipbrokers do not only negotiate the price of the vessel on behalf of the principals but also all the logistical details for the transfer of the title and the vessel herself to the buyers. During the negotiations minor disputes may have to be handled given that the market may be moving in favor of the buyer (vessel price is softening) or in favor of the seller (vessel price is strengthening) giving each party a reason to cancel the transaction. When shipbrokers act on behalf of passive investors or financial buyers, they may also have to advise and source employment for the vessels, a vessel manager and oversee such agreements. Some S&P brokers specialize in the sale of ships for scrapping, which requires a different set of skills.
Dry cargo broking
Dry cargo brokers are typically specialists in the chartering of Bulk carriers, and are appointed to act either for a shipowner looking for employment for a ship, or a charterer with a cargo to be shipped. Dry cargo chartering brokers have to maintain large databases of vessel positions, cargoes and rates and pay close attention to the direction of the markets so that they can advise their clients accurately as to how to maximize profits or minimize expenses. Dry cargo shipping can be categorized by Vessel size: namely, Bulkers such as Capesizes, Panamaxes and Handysize are the main sectors. Each size of vessel suits different types of cargo and trade routes. Thus owners, charterers and brokers tend to specialize in one or other of these sectors.
Tanker brokers specialize in the chartering of Tankers, which requires different skills and knowledge from Dry cargo broking. Tanker brokers may specialize in crude oil, gas, oil products or chemical tankers.
Some specific voyages, such as named voyages (i.e., from A to B) and for specialist ships, like LNG tankers (a highly specialized sector of the tanker market), freight rates can be agreed at a fixed rate between the parties.
Container brokers specialise in the chartering of container ships and provide container ship owners and charterers with market-related information.
Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers (ICS) is an internationally recognized professional body in the maritime arena and it represents shipbrokers, ship managers and agents throughout the world. The institute provides diplomas, certifications and other professional programs such as
- Foundation Diploma
- Advanced Diploma
- Professional Qualifying Examinations towards membership and certification
- Various other courses and Seminars
- Worshipful Company of Shipwrights
- Worshipful Company of Fuellers
- Baltic Exchange
- Karatzas Shipbrokers Register
- Huber, Mark (2001). "Ch. 9:Chartering and Operations". Tanker operations: a handbook for the person-in-charge (PIC). Cambridge, MD: Cornell Maritime Press. ISBN 0-87033-528-6.
- Turpin, Edward A.; McEwen, William A. (1980). "Ch. 18: United States Navigation Laws and Ship's Business". Merchant Marine Officers' Handbook. Centreville, MD: Cornell Maritime Press. ISBN 0-87033-056-X.