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Supercargo is a term in maritime law (adapted from the Spanish sobrecargo, one over or in charge of a cargo) that refers to a person employed on board a vessel by the owner of cargo carried on the ship. The duties of a supercargo include managing the cargo owner's trade, selling the merchandise at the ports to which the vessel is sailing, and buying and receiving goods to be carried on the return voyage.

He has control of the cargo unless limited by his contract or other agreement. For instance, the supercargo has no authority over the stevedores and he has no role in the necessary preparatory work prior to the handling of cargo. Because a supercargo sails from port to port with the vessel to which he is attached, he differs from a factor, who has a fixed place of residence at a port or other trading place.


During the Age of Sail from the 16th to the mid-19th century the supercargo was the second most important person aboard a merchant ship after the captain.[1]

In 1818, Jean Laffite appointed Jao de la Porta supercargo for the Karankawa Indian trade.[2]

In literature[edit]

See also[edit]

  • Loadmaster, a similar role for command personnel of a military cargo aircraft


  1. ^ Coe, Andrew (2009). Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 9780199758517.  p. 3
  2. ^ "De La Porta Brothers". Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 28 July 2011. 

Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.