Ships agents.

frank elliott
10th May 2011, 10:00
Interested in all things related to the shipping industry. My question to anybody in the know is about ships agents.When we all were at sea in the glory days of the 50's to 70's we were so pleased to see the agent come on board with our eagerly awaited mail from girlfriends and family.I can understand how Company's with ships on routine voyages would have representative agents in every possible port to handle the ships business.However,how did smaller independant tramp and tramping tanker Company's arrange for an agent at far off distant and remote ports of call , at short notice? How did agents receive payment for services and how do they get appointed to act as agents? What qualifications and shipping experience do they need?
A ships agent always seemed like a nice occupation to me! Any replies - welcome.

10th May 2011, 15:26
I was in Bibby Line and we went to all sorts of places either on voyage or time charters.
I believe the big shipping agents that had branches in most ports, were already appointed by the shipping company and a telegram to them in the destination port just triggered their services.
Our most unusual stop was off Hawaii to drop an ill seaman. The old man just looked up his list of agents and sent off a telegram. Exactly as we steamed up, the agents launch arrived and took off our seaman and left us will local, american and UK newspapers. I assume they just sent their bill to the company.

Best Wishes


24th May 2011, 05:21
Until "Ports of the World" and similar directories appeared, word-of-mouth, or, to be more accurate, word of telex, was the system. It depended upon the port, but an agency would routinely send their full style to the owners/operators/charterers of ships who visited their port in the hope of soliciting business. It is not unknown for an agent to present his credentials aboard a ship which already has an agent appointed, in the hope of stealing the business on a future visit.
There is room for the multi-national agencies, such as G.A.C and Inchcape, as well as the one-man-and-dog operation in the out-of-the-way places.

All that is required is a firm grasp of local port/customs/immigration rules, and the ability to represent the shipowners' interest above all others in dealing with them. A bit like becoming an ambassador for a foreign power in one's own country.

The owner/operator/charterer will make an appointment in writing, these days by e-mail, and request a pro-forma disbursement invoice. The agent then estimates the total of all of the possible expenses that will be routinely incurred by the ship; e.g. port dues, light dues, cargo handling, customs clearance fees, pilotage fees, tugboat/launch charges, shore transportation, medical charges; etc., etc.
It is better to inflate these as much as possible, then add husbandry and agency fees.
This is sent to the owners/charterers together with one's bank details and currency of choice.
The owner/charterer must then effect a wire transfer of the specified sum. When this is received, the appointment is accepted.

After the ship has left and all bills are paid, a detailed statement of expenses is prepared and submitted and either any overage is returned or a supplementary payment is requested.

Shipping companies are notoriously slow in meeting their financial obligations, so for the agency to survive it is essential that all possible eventualities are allowed for in the initial pro-forma as this will certainly be paid in full, otherwise, with no agent appointed, the ship would be unable to enter port. It can take years for supplementary requests to be met.

Ships stopping out of the blue to drop off an injured crew-member can be handled by requesting the name of the P & I Club and contacting them by telephone for pre-approval of initial expenses.

frank elliott
24th May 2011, 20:20
Ships agents. Thankyou NAYTIKOS for your very informative reply to my request for information. Interesting to read your knowledge of just what a ships agent is expected to know and be able to do on behalf of the ship owners. Thanks again Frank.