Who is?

Hi. I am a shipping company director, transport academic, author, family man and all round nice guy. I have worked as shipbroker, shipowner, freight trader and bulk charterer, in senior positions, with some of the largest and most disrespected (joke) companies in the world. Ask my advice on all things shipping and you will receive my blunt and always honest answer. Hang around to learn more about chartering and ship broker salaries, chartering and ship broker jobs, chartering and shipbroker recruitment agencies, cheap freight, maritime education, chartering and ship broker qualifications, become a ship broker, tips on how to be a successful bulk shipping executive, philosophy, Zen and the art of shipbroking, and much more. Yours The Virtual Shipbroker (recently proclaimed the guru of shipbroking) Copyright © 2009-12 by Virtualshipbroker

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

For the spiritually diverse with a sense of humor!


The following is an actual question given on a Physics Exam in the USA. The
answer by one student was so "profound" the professor decided to share
it with colleagues, via the Internet,

I thought it was funny and tried to spin it into a shipping yarn but no matter what i came up with it didn't work. I do know that the shipping people I know think about Hell a lot...usually after 2 am...


So here is the original version.


Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or
endothermic (absorbs heat)?

Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs
using Boyle's Law (gas cools when it expands and heats
when it is compressed) or some variant.

One student, however, wrote the following:

First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is
changing in time.
So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving
into Hell and t he rate at which they are leaving. I
think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets
to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are

As for how many souls are entering Hell, let's look at
the different religions that exist in the world today.
Most of these religions state that if you are not a
member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since
there is more than one of these religions and since
people do not belong to more than one religion, we can
project that all souls go to Hell.

With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect
the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially.
Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in
Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the
temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the
volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls
are added.

This gives two possibilities:

1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate
at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and
pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks
2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the
increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and
pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.

So which is it?

If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa
during my Freshman year that, "it will be a cold day
in Hell before I sleep with you, and take into account
the fact that I slept with her last night, then number
two must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is
exothermic and has already frozen over.
The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has
frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any
more souls and is therefore, extinct...leaving only
Heaven thereby proving the existence of a divine being
which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting
"Oh my God."



Nice work!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The social side of shipping

From a friend in China


Hey vs,

I was just wondering if "entertaining" is commonplace in the broking industry over in the west. I was pressured to go out by my seniors yesterday, for drinks at a karaoke bar. A charterer was there too. Had to sing, and they kept handing out beers. Don't get me wrong, I like beer, just not drinking it excessively for the sake of getting drunk.


Yep this is pretty common place. As it is in most high flying professions like banking, trading and even the law. Some of the most debaucherous (spelling?) behaviour I've seen has been carried out by multimillionaires from all different races, nationalities and even sexes.

You should read what those crazy french royal family used to get up to before the revolution in the late 1700's.

The good news is that although some compromise is needed, if you are uncomfortable with the overt social culture of chartering, you can be a clean skin. After a few years of social ostracism and some ribbing, if you stay true to your self you will be respected either way. 

But yes if you thought shipping was full of well dressed respectable people then you are only half right...lol..

I did tell on this blog that a few years back I met Jordan Belfort the real wolf of Walls st (after he spent time in jail) socially while on holidays. After a 30 minute chat he actually suggested that we go out for dinner (with the wives) and I quickly and politely declined letting him know that he and I move in different circles. I told him that a big night out for me these days is a glass of wine, an occasional cigarette and in bed by 10pm

I'm not joking either...........living on the edge people... 

How many people would knock back an invitation to party with the wolf of wall st???

(now that i put it like that.......what was i thinking?)


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Love this email

I have changed one or two points to protect anonymity - but its a great story.

I hope she doesn't mind (doh)


Hi VS,

Hope you are well.

I don't know you and you don't know me, so I'll be frank.

In short I'm a 26 year old second generation British female going on 27 with nothing to show apart from a divorce and extortionate university fees to repay. I have a BA and MSc under my belt from a redbrick University in Business and currently working in shipping for a fashion supplier going stale. When I was younger no way in hell did I envisage myself in this pothole but nothing in life goes to plan lol. I had great visions of happiness and success like all but growing up and life experiences give you wisdom. Happiness is acceptance and I accept I need to make drastic changes now in order to attain the latter. Success I can attain and happiness is the constant. Funnily my unhappiness is so obvious, that when a new manager joined my team suggested that I look into ship brokering. She has worked for shipping lines, freight forwarders and has experience in vessel chartering and she believes I would be cut out for it. In her words I take no shit from no one within reason of course and I always want to know why. I'm hungry for new challenges and have a burning desire to break free from the mundane 9-5 and make something of myself. So I have started researching and I'm falling in love with the idea of ship brokering.

This is preliminary research and I strongly believe second to actually doing the job the best way to understand something is to talk to a person who has lived it. I would much appreciate it if you could answer the below questions and address the concerns I have:

How would you describe the job bluntly (good and bad)?

I know I'm intelligent, hard working, a fast learner, thick skinned and outspoken coupled with my background is this enough? 

In an industry which is male dominated, does the glass extend from the ceiling to the door?

What steps do I need to take to become a ship broker?

Can you recommend other sources of research, reading, people to talk to etc....

I eagerly look forward to hearing from you

Kind regards


I would hire this woman but Bhutan isn't really the centre of shipping these days...so if anyone is 'on the hire' drop me a line and I will put you in touch...

PS - I don't usually do this (offer to pass on job offers) but this email made me laugh and convinced me that this person would be a formidable person to deal with in the shipbroking world. If many readers could channel this 'vibe' and level of honesty it would imo open up many doors. Well done.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Shipping smiles ready to return?

Its now quite some time since the GFC and the catastrophic drop in the BDI that accompanied it. I had a currency trader ask me just the other day about the BDI....."where's it at?" he asked. I quickly jibbed back "irrelevant for you guys" for a few more years to come.

You see the daily machinations of the BDI (Baltic Dry Index) was once seen as an almost mystical insight into the future health of the economic universe. A rising BDI meant countries were trading more - and this logically meant growth.

Alas the BDI celebrity bubble burst when this canary of the sea's became more about supply side ridiculousness than the health and wealth of nations.

China exploded and the shipping industry went NUTS! Collectively Bezerk! We spent, ordered, wined and dined like there was no tomorrow. And gee it was good! So good I semi retired.....but that's a whole new story...

What's interesting is that after the shipping equivalent of the great depression (the normal result of going Bezerk for too long)......i'm sensing more than just wishful thinking amongst the throng of well dressed and slightly older shipping frat shops.

Shipbrokers are expanding, dry bulk IPO's are back on the agenda, Shipowners are starting to order ships again and chartering exec's are renewing our love affair with business class lounges and fully reclinable seats ......Thank god for that! Can this really be true?

Save for the recent drop in Iron Prices, and the usual banter about Chinese house price - I could be excused for doing a cartwheel or two (which btw is easier in the high altitude mountains of Bhutan).

I'm finding it hard to find a good dentist...but I can't stop smiling

Lets not get ahead of ourselves but my crystal ball is looking clearer all the time.

If you aint in 'the game' yet.....maybe it's time to make a move!

Yours The Virtual Shipbroker

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Thanks patience....life is good

Thanks to all the readers who have kept in touch. I am glad you never lost patience. The good news is that there is so much content on the blog that newcomers and regulars still have heaps to interact with.

Case in point from a new reader


You should have seen our surprise when we found your blog. To my friend, it is like a validation of what he have to go through in on the spot, all these questions which he painfully discovered. To me, never heard of the word dry bulk before, I was able to go from knowing nothing to being able to analyse, discuss and think about issues. I finished reading the blog in 3 weeks (will probably go through all of it once more). We also bought the 4 books and went through them and the voyage estimation together. Thank you for writing the blog, really. I hope that you are well with all that you are up to. Hope to see a post once in a while.


I have enjoyed taking some time away from the blog and am full of beans ready to go

Word of advice - For Breakfast - if you mix baked beans (organic) with raw Sauerkraut, eggs (organic) and garlic - don't expect too much love from the wife for at least 2 days...

lesson learnt

great detox though but was it worth it?


Shipping Jobs Singapore - So whats happening in Singapore for the next 12 months?

Nice article appeared in Hellenic Shipping news.

The clever Singaporeans have certainly cemented themselves (arguably) as the center of the shipping word these days....

I remember back in 2000 when bulk shipping was still a very niche industry. 

Anyway - seems onwards and upwards - may the prosperity continue!


2014 will see owners take delivery of thousands of newbuild vessels and more ships on the water means more people needed in shore-based roles.

Right now the global newbuild order book is standing at over 4,000 cargo ships and close to 1,000 OSVs. Every week brings fresh stories of owners inking new orders - the world fleet will continue to expand into 2015, 2016 and beyond.

This translates, basically, into more jobs: a good commercial Operator can handle around 10 ships, so every time the global fleet increases by 10 that is 1 new Operator job created.

On the technical management side a Technical Superintendent can typically manage around 5 ships and a Marine Superintendent anything up to 15. More ships mean more people.

Along with these Operators and Superintendents, more Crewing and Chartering professionals will be hired, not to mention the associated support staff and management required.

So, 100 new ships on the water can directly create 50 or more new shipping jobs on-shore. And these will be followed by the indirect jobs this creates at the various suppliers, agents, brokers, lawyers, and insurers.

So where does Singapore stand in this? There is no doubt that in bulk shipping Singapore is commercially the best in Asia and will continue to attract more international shipping players. The Global Trader Programme, offering reduced tax for commodity traders, means there are now 300 commodity traders with $100m+ revenues in the Lion City.

With all these cargo interests in Singapore, brokers and operators have to have a presence here, and for ship-owners commercial representation a necessity. Nowhere else can offer so much shipping business opportunity in one place, and in Singapore most of your clients are only a 10 minute taxi ride away.

Unquestionably, government policies affect the employment market in Singapore shipping. The tax benefits offered to shipping companies helped to establish Singapore’s current strong position by attracting international shipping companies en masse in 2006-2008.

As markets continue to improve in 2014, and ship owning becomes profitable again, these tax incentives will once again become more attractive; saving money on tax bills is really only of interest to companies that are making profits!

Again influenced by government policy, the people market in Singapore is slowly changing. The real change is coming from an improvement in the local talent pool driven by education – since 2009 NTU Maritime Studies BSc programme has graduated around 60-70 bright young candidates every year and many of the established shipping companies hire trainees from this talent pool.

SMU now offers a Maritime Economics Concentration and will be graduating students from 2015. In addition, the Polytechnics are offering world-leading Diploma courses and provide an excellent training environment and career path for Singaporeans to develop careers on-shore and at sea.

Changes to regulations in employing foreigners have had some effect, and firms now look to hire locally first for positions where the skills are available.

Senior positions though are largely unaffected by these changes as C-level and Director level roles are not given to people as career development opportunities – companies need the best possible people in these roles regardless of nationality, and not enough Singaporeans have the sea-going experience required to fill the technical roles available.

It is not an exaggeration to say that Singapore is the city with the highest concentration of diverse shipping talent in the world. The shipping industry in Singapore is a cultural rojak with 5,000+ shipping and maritime companies representing practically every country on earth.

With the city being the leading maritime centre in Asia - and now vying with London to be the Maritime Capital of the World, there is an undoubted need for diverse and highly skilled international talent.

International shipping companies will always want to maintain links to their home country, and when your clients come from all over the world it makes commercial sense to have a diverse workforce.

When managed well everyone benefits from this cross-pollination – foreign talent in Singapore gains exposure to a dynamic Asian market and gets the global experience to fast-track a career (not to mention access to a wealth of new career opportunities at competitor firms).

Singaporeans benefit from world-class shipping companies investing in developing local talent who ultimately benefit from exposure to international best-practice.

More ships on the water means more people employed on shore. Companies will continue to hire people in Singapore because if you want low / no tax, access to the top talent globally, to be in close proximity to your clients and counterparties, then Singapore is the place to be.

Whether or not the shipping markets continue to pick up in 2014 and beyond, the industry in Singapore will remain strong and good shipping talent will be in demand.
Source: SBR



Friday, January 3, 2014

Happy festive season to all!

Happy Christian New year / Festive season to all....regardless of belief systems and cultures the shipping industry does quieten down for a few weeks.

And yes I am still here and yes I am still selling books and providing consultancy. I am just on a small hiatus with regards to making blog posts...

But do not worry - this blog will be around for many years yet....sometimes one just needs an occasional break...(read burn out!)

So please keep reading the 5 years worth of information provided and keep sending me messages and I will try and respond when I get the chance.

I am incredibly appreciative of all the readers, followers and customers of this blog.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Lets talk a little bit more about POWER

Lets talk about power in shipping. shipbroking and business in general.

In a previous post I described a person who was considered the 'best of the best' as a shipbroker - and then I stated that this was in most part due to the power they wielded...

How did this manifest

1. Expert power - there was no doubt this person had great knowledge. At the start of this person career they had been a shipowner and therefore was able to bring unique and strong perspectives to the world of shipbroking. In the late 80's it was rare to find a shipbroker who could run a voyage calculation and one that understood intimately the important metaphoric buttons to push...

3. Coercive power - This is old news for those long in the shipbroking tooth. Shipbrokers expand business and keep business through being powerful. that is why some of the larger shops are the most successful. A powerful shipbroking company or a power individual has 'things' that pothers want. And if those 'things that others want' are worth alot of money and status then its amazing how money keeps rolling in. In its simplest form many shipping companies - both charterers and shipowners are scared of powerful shipbrokers and therefore the shipbroker in question gets more business.  If as a shipowner I no longer want to work with a shipbroker because they have behaved unethically, or because they have provided poor service - how is this possible if the shipbroker has'exclusivity' on heaps of business that I want? Well I can't.I need to dance with the devil baby!!...again nothing new here. This broker in question (from the previous post) had 2 large exclusive clients - and knew very well how to use this leverage to his advantage. He and his company would not be shy in reminding clients that 'support was expected' rather than potentially earned.....which is probably the way the world should be.....but it aint...

Look it isnt all bad here. What is wrong with using leverage? Used in a smart way with sound ethics its perfectly reasonable. the problem occurs when expectations go too far...

3. Social power - What i found the most intriguing and sometimes disconcerting was the open use of social power. This is still very much the case in shipping around the globe. This successful broker was also the most social. If someone was up for a late night out, a boozy business trip, a very long lunch - this guy was there. Not only was he there but his cohort were with him. They moved like a Possy, always within eye sight, always within earshot to laugh at each others jokes, back each other up, and basically present a united front wherever they went...

This was both fun but also disconcerting - I have never been a fan of crowds and although as individuals they were all good guys - as a combination of people - well group dynamics can take over...

Anyway - this combination of power is very intoxicating for all involved and has led to great success. Those wanting to be a part of the possy (customers mostly) readily bought in and the rest is history. This guy lived shipping 24/7...and has made millions as a result.

The one element of power they didn't really have in my opinion was Legitimate power. This is the kind of power that comes easy and is a reward for being great at your job - minus the social and coercive elements. This manifested (for said broker and his cohorts) in certain ways - mainly cynicism, bullying, and the other social problems related to working too long and too hard....a lack of perspective can be damaging. I dont think they have the respect they crave.

So being the best (or perceived to be the best) is not always what its cracked up to be. And in all honesty I think there are quite a few others in that market that are actually more successful in terms of making money, deals done etc but they keep things quiet and play cards close to the chest and have a life outside of shipping.

I think by the tone of this post you can tell which modes operand I prefer.

Keep rocking