A Career in Ship Broking?
1. What is a shipbroker?
A shipbroker is someone who arranges the ocean transport of goods and commodities by sea, the employment of a vessel or buys and sells ships on behalf of his clients.
2. What do they do?
Shipbrokers act as intermediaries between shipowners and charterers or the buyers and sellers of ships. The broker is involved in many stages of a deal: presenting the business to potential clients, negotiating the main terms of a contract or sale, finalising the details of the contract and following the deal through to its conclusion. Increasingly shipbrokers also provide their clients with a wide range of market intelligence and advice.
A junior broker would be expected to be extremely flexible in terms of his or her job description - typically no formal training is given and experience is gained "on the job". Tasks might include: entering tonnage into the company's database; assisting the operations (or "post-fixture") department to get an understanding of the more technical nature of shipping; checking through charter parties (the legal contracts for any fixture); as well as starting to build his or her own contacts within the shipping world.
A successful shipbroker will have built up a network of contacts around the world - shipping is an industry based very much upon relationships and therefore it is essential that anybody entering the profession has an ability to get on with people from a variety of backgrounds. Shipbroking is highly competitive and there are far more shipbrokers than shipowners or charterers in the world - any trainee will need a strong commercial sense, be able to think on their feet and offer sound constructive advice to their clients.
Shipbroking is an intensive career choice - the hours are long and brokers are expected to be available "24/7". Typically the day will start early in the morning in time to catch to important Far Eastern markets and continue until the evening - some weekend work is usually expected if clients are based in a country where this is the norm.
3. How does the Baltic Exchange fit in?
The Baltic Exchange is a self-regulated marketplace for shipbrokers. Its members are expected to operate within in a strict code of conduct. Membership of the Baltic enables shipbrokers to network, obtain market information and receive help in disputes.
4. Do I need qualifications?
New entrants to the shipbroking industry do not need a shipping qualification, but there are shipping business degree courses run by several British universities. The Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers offers professional qualifications and the Baltic Exchange also runs a number of practical shipbroking courses.
Liverpool John Moores University
London Metropolitan University
5. Where are the jobs?
Many shipbrokers are based in and around London. It is estimated that London's 700 shipbroking companies - many of them small businesses - account for 50 per cent of all tanker and 30-40 per cent of dry bulk chartering business. Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, Tokyo, Seoul, New York, Vancouver, Athens, Hamburg, Copenhagen and Oslo are also important centres of shipbroking.
6. Is it well-paid?
Shipbroking is a demanding and often stressful career, but the rewards can be high for the successful broker. Shipbrokers generally earn a low to medium basic salary with bonuses for good performance.
7. How do I become a shipbroker?
Companies rarely advertise for entrant positions in to the industry but some of the larger firms do recruit graduate trainees or school leavers. Contact details for some of the larger London firms are listed below:
Howe Robinson & Co Ltd
Mint House 77
London E1 8AF
St Magnus House
3 Lower Thames Street
London EC3R 6HE
Simpson Spence & Young Ltd
1 Portsoken Street
London E1 8PH
Human Resources Director
Gibson Shipbrokers Ltd
PO Box 278
16-20 Ely Place
London EC1P 1HP
Human Resources Manager
124-126 Borough High Street
London SE1 1BL