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 © 2009-14 by Virtualshipbroker

Monday, June 16, 2014

World Cup and other inconveniences

I am in the privileged if not slightly annoying (to others) position of being able to support a number of countries in this world cup.

I reserve the right to claim which ever country (of my multi origin background) suits at any particular time.

There is my country first....I was born here and I am a proud citizen. We aren't the best at football but we punch above our weight..

Then I have Dutch, Belgium and English Heritage...(amongst a few others that dont play football)

With that mix I should have been a better footballer but I do alright running around on the weekends with an increasingly older cohort if people trying to hold on to whats left of our youth.

My son goes ok at football. Is it too young (8 years old) to expect my son to be proficient at tiki taka, juggling and be able to run for 45 minutes...

I really need a parenting handbook. I dont want him growing up as neurotic as me..


Shipping markets - ok there is no two ways about it. markets are CRAP! After early 2014 positivity the entire market has shat itself along with the collective morale of anyone long on ships!

We are seeing lots of manoeuvres amongst those with too much tonnage. The wise head owners are looking at accepting / re negotiating freight rates DOWN. If not the expose themselves to counter party bankruptcies especially if the doldrums set in once again...

Did i just say 'bankruptsies'? Shit I thought we were past that...

Stay positive people!!!!

Oh - Im picking Belgium to raise the cup in 6 weeks time...


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Advice for trainees

Dear VS
good to hear you are still on, me and a friend (in Northern Europe), just started as trainees on different bulk shipping companies so we are part of this whole new way of life and heavy drinking style:
Compulsory as my boss said once.
Anyway, we are both going at some point to the chartering department, and we both were loooking at your blog and books.
Since we are not 100% related to the broker part of the shipping industry, but still very close to the whole thing, i would like you to recommend us, which of your books will be helpful for us taking into account we are in the chartering department?. as owner and charterers of course.
thanks for your guidance
Hi Peter
Yes the world of bulk shipping is a baptism of fire for young people. My advice is yes partake in the social side and yes it is expected in most 'shipping scenes' around the globe. But imprtantly stay balanced. Keep fit and have hobbies outside of shipping. Don't let the social side eat you up and spit you out 20 kg heavier, with a drinking problem and 3 divorces.
Best book for you is Inside Shipbroking and / or Fast track. Both will give you lots of perspective in terms of why things happen and how you can make the best fo your first few years in the industry.
Otherwise have a drink or two on me!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Big Apple

Have a friend of the blog looking for an entry level shipping documentation candidate in New York..

Anyone interested drop me a line..


Whats happening in the markets?

Well they are pretty flat to be honest. One week there is cause for positivity, the next its all doom and gloom. This prolonged bear market continues to cause fractures, and initiate change. One of the biggest change in the broking world is the recently announced meger (actually a takeover) between two large shops - Braemar Seascope and ACM.

There is some debate amongst the power brokers, especially those with much to lose, as to whether this is a trend that should be followed. The reasoning is that the new post boom world of shipping, shipbrokers need to be LARGE to protect themselves, or equally "prosper" - leaving the middle sized shops to die a slow death.

Its an interesting discussion because im still not convinced that the current rationalization isn't purely market forces at play. A cyclical series of events that have little to do with whats happening 'on the ground' in various broker markets around the globe.

The large (usually publicly listed) shops have many masters to serve. They also have head honchos that are juggling different growth strategies, business models, etc with an eye on the BIG picture.

On the ground however is a different story. For us 'transactional brokers' not much has changed in our parts of the world. Whilst the big guys play big guy games, most of us get down and dirty doing the job the brokers do - Fixing Ships!...

And the keys to suiccess here havent changed too much. Stay on the phones, build relationships, watch the email, carry your blackberry or Iphone everywhere....and hussle....move...work the clients and make money.

If a group of people in the same office are good at the above it doesnt make any difference how big, medium or small you are - you will make money. The problem with large shops...is that they can give good service but that service by its nature tends to be homogeneous...the same for everyone. So if the protagonists are playing a standard type of game then this is a good option. For those not so mainstream, looking for an edge (which is commonly the case) small, medium and / or niche is a very good option.

Keep rockin

Monday, May 5, 2014

Shipping Salaries (a good question)

From a close friend of the blog (ad a new entrant)


Hello VS,

I was just wondering, if a broker's earning potential is influenced by the country he is working in. If i remember correctly, a broker's total income (base + bonus. Correct me if im wrong) is, in general 1/3 of the commission brought in by him. If that's the case, wouldn't it be better for a broker to work from a place with a relatively low cost of living? 



A good question. And generally you are correct. But there tends to be two salary rates in many developing nations. One for 'expats' and one for 'locals'. Certainly for an expat being able to earn 'western' dollars while living in a developing country is very attractive. For more established locals they too will also (probably a bit slower) start hitting pay dirt after a while but this is sometimes no always so easy. (Entry level wages for locals tends to be at local rates)

The good news for 'locals' is that this disparity is closing over the last 5 or 6 years.

Finally - probably the best way to answer your question is with a simple yes. The entire industry uses a common currency (USD) - so if you live in a developing nation with a currency that is valued much lower than the USD - when you convert you are a king!....The opposite is also the case. Currency values play an important role in the wealth of shipping companies and employees alike.

great question


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.