Career options

Careers In Shipping

The shortage of deck and engine officers is a fact that has come to haunt the shipping industry. However, there is also concern over the training of ship agents, brokers, operations staff, port managers and vital administrative employees.

The current shortage of shore side staff is worrying but there are plenty of opportunities for students willing to study shipping and transport at all levels. ICS TutorShip courses from cover the spectrum from entry level shipping practice to degree equivalent in economics and shoreside best practice.


Courtesy: Shipping Network Magazine, Mr Phil Parry, Spinnaker Consulting

In the olden golden days, “shipbrokers’ were competitive brokers, owner’s brokers or charterer’s brokers. Nowadays, we use an ever-growing lexicon to describe them. The last ten years has seen the emergence of the “freight trader”, a term that, arguably, describes the broader risk management role that some now occupy. Alternatively, it just sounds more glamorous to say you’re a trader!

Job Titles
  • Competitive broker
  • Owner’s broker
  • Chartering broker
  • Principal broker
  • Freight trader
  • Charterer
  • In-house broker
  • Chartering Executive
  • Commercial executive,
  • Voyage operations executive
  • Marine charterer
What’s it all about?

Competitive shipbrokers are the intermediaries between (i) shipowners and the charterers who hire their ships and (ii) the buyers and sellers of ships – sale and purchase (S&P) brokers. They earn a commission of 1.25% of the ‘freight’ paid per tonne to carry the cargo from A to B or of the daily ‘hire’ paid to hire the ship for a certain period, which can be anything from weeks to several years. S&P brokers earn commission of 1% of the sale price of the ship.

A competitive shipbroker’s clients are the shipowners, charterers, buyers and sellers of ships. They also employ shipbrokers ‘in-house’ whose job it is to find cargo for their ships or to find ships for their cargoes. Some do both in organizations that charter-in other people’s ships and ‘operate’ them by chartering them out, hopefully at a profit.

The vast majority of shipbrokers, both competitive and in-house, specialise in particular vessel types and sizes and even in certain geographical trades. For example tanker, dry bulk, LNG, containers, chemicals/products, handysize, panamax, Atlantic, Pacific and so on.

What’s new?

Derivatives: FFAs or Forward Freight Agreements are freight derivatives. FFAs enable owners and charterers to ‘hedge’ against the risks of price movement in the physical (actual) markets. They also enable speculative investors to enter the market and make (or lose) money from shipping with out actually owing or trading ships or cargo. Banks are the newest entrants on the shipping scene. Some are even getting involved in physical freight trading.

Who’s employing?

Employers include:

  • shipowners
  • oil companies
  • commodity groups
  • mining groups
  • banks
  • and of course shipbroking firms themselves, such as Clarksons, Braemar Seascape, Maresk Broker, ICAP Hyde, Galbraith’s, E A Gibson, Howe Robinson, BRS, FIS, SSY, RS Platou, Lorentzen and Stemoco, Fearnleys and many more.
What do I need?

Personality. Networking skills. Negotiating skills.

Nowadays, most employers look for graduates, but some of the best brokers and charterers we know have no qualifications at all! The ICS qualifications are highly regarded as on-the-job training and as a route into broking and chartering.

What can I earn?

How long is a piece of string? Graduate starting salaries have risen in the last few years to +/-10%: $50,000 in the US, E40, 000 in Europe and about half that in the Far East. Good performers can earn $200,000/140,000 annually including bonuses in a little as five years on the job. Annual bonuses vary wildly.

In recent good years we have come across numerous examples in the 100%-600% range and there are now quite a few superstars in the market earning six figure incomes.


Lots of it.


Worldwide. Major centres include

  • London
  • Singapore
  • Hong Kong
  • Connecticut
  • Houston
  • Oslo
  • Copenhagen.

On the job and the ICS TutorShip course. Am I earning enough? Find out and take part in Spinnaker Consulting’s 2008 freight trader survey.

Visit or email

Ship Agency

Courtesy: Shipping Network Magazine, Mr Phil Parry, Spinnaker Consulting

Ship agency has changed. Ship agents are now worldwide businesses providing sophisticated global services to very demanding clients. The biggest employ thousands of staff who specialise in particular commodities – tankers, cruise, liner, naval, gas, dry bulk, etc – and particular service sectors such as crewing, spare parts, P&I, terminal services … and much more.

Job Titles

Every job you can think of in shipping from

  • sales
  • engineering
  • claims handler
  • shipbroker
  • terminal services
  • marine superintendent
  • operations
  • to finance and IT.
What’s it all about?

Most simply, a port agent is the 24/7 local representative of its port user clients – shipowners, charterers and cargo shippers or receivers – for a vessel’s port call from the moment it arrives until the moment it sails.

The emphasis is on letting the client get on with what it does best while producing cost savings, streamlining accounting and administration, streamlining processes, providing up-to-date information and excellent communication, all the while providing a single point of contact.

Agents have local knowledge and local contacts and handle a huge variety of tasks, both simple and very complex, including

  • Disbursement accounts
  • Cargo documentation, statements of facts, laytime/demurrage
  • Handling funds, claims and P&I correspondency
  • Customs and immigration formalities
  • Liaison with ports, terminals and stevedores
  • Cargo management, forwarding and logistics
  • Liner agency and representation
  • Crew changes and repatriation
  • Supplying provisions, water, spares and fuel
  • Removing ships’ waste
  • Arranging repairs
  • Ship to ship transfer
  • Offshore and terminal support services………….and much more.
What’s new?

Outsourcing, technology and mergers: ship agency has changes dramatically in the last few years. Leading agency groups are now massive businesses with thousands of staff all over the world and they represent large clients who outsource to them all aspects of their global ship-to-shore interface. They describe themselves therefore in ways such as “marine services providers” or “specialists in shipping, logistics and marine services”. This large-scale outsourcing seems to be the way forward for the biggest companies giving them growth and long term stability.

Added to which, large agency groups are getting larger, through mergers and acquisitions, while agency networks – an alternative business model – are also growing, e.g. Multiport and SS.

Major clients who outsource their work to agencies demand accurate information. Agencies must provide sophisticated, often web-based, applications, which communicate the status of every aspect of their clients’ business in real-time and which measure and analyse costs and operational data to a very high degree of details.

The Players:

The major agents are Inchcape Shipping Services (ISS), Gulf Agency Co (GAC), Barwil and the Multiport network. Between them, these four account for around 14% of all global port calls. The remaining 86% is handling by a variety of local and regional companies, including the SS group and India’s JM Baxi.

Who’s employing?

Who isn’t?!

What do I need?

There are such a variety of jobs within an agency that there are too many answers to this question to fit on one page. Given that you are reading this, the chances are that you are considering studying for ICS qualifications or have passed them. They provide an excellent understanding of agency and many of the major agency companies put their staff through them.

What can I earn?

Again there are so many jobs in agency groups that there is no short answer to this question. Because there are now some very large agency groups, benefits packages, including expatriate packages, are in line with similarly sized organisations in other sectors. And, of course, this decade in the shipping industry has been enjoying its most successful period for decades, so agency groups are competing with other shipping employers for staff.

The result? Agency salaries are very competitive.


Lots of it


Worldwide, with the very real opportunity to move countries several times within the same company.


On the job or ICS TutorShip courses.


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