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 © 2009-17 by Virtualshipbroker

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Festive Season

Taking the opportunity to wish everyone a happy festive season. I wont say Merry Christmas because we have people of all faiths who read this blog.

The lead up to xmas is hectic. No one wants an open ship or open cargo in the period between xmas day and the new year. And if they do we pity the poor trainee, or infact the older warhorse, who has drawn the short straw and must man the phones and computers during this period.
Those of us with school age children have the perfect excuse to recharge our batteries, contemplate the year that was, and get in some fishing, skiing, surfing or spot of golf (depending where you live).


my wife loves dressing for xmas!
Thank you to all those people who have supported this blog in its first full year of existence. Its strange being a blogger - im not sure exactly what keeps me going being so busy in all aspects of my life. I think its the feedback that get from happy readers and students that fires me up. In shipping we dont tend to get such positive feedback on such a regular basis. You might get a pat on the back here and there and a bonus for producing revenues above expectations - but i can safely say there is nothing quite like someone telling you that you have made a positive impact on their lives by guiding them through the maze that is international shipping.


I get just as much buzz from selling a 30 buck book as i do from doing a deal worth 15k commission. (Selling a book is still someway behind conculding a coa or doing a nice 5 year period deal - but not much which may surprise many of you).

I look forward to helping others in 2011 and beyond (agw, wp).

Stay happy and safe over christmas

Click here for the latest wikileaks christmas scandal.
ciao for now

VS

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A cool way of looking at things

Time management is an important part of any shipbrokers life. So anytime used not trying to 'close deals' can be a moment wasted.

Here's a cool way I like to think about the negotiation process - and thus manage my time better.

You can use it too

Lets say you have a close client who is a charterer and this charterer uses 5 shipbrokers.

When you receive a new charter order you have

1. A 20 percent chance of doing a FIXTURE (one out of five brokers)


2. When you receive an indication from an owner this percentage (i reckon) goes up to 30 percent chance of doing a FIXTURE. (an Indication is a big deal. But other brokers will also be bringing in a few indications)

3. If you receive an offer from a shipowner I suggest that your chances of doing this FIXTURE go up to say 40 percent. (A broker needs to treat offers very seriously. This means you are getting closer to being in the money!)

4. If you get a counter offer (from the charterer) - then this percentage goes up again to say 70 percent. (yes a counter offer improves your chances by a huge percentage. It means the two parties are now actively involved in a trade and have invested time and effort to take this further).

5. You are fixed on "main terms" (yahooooooooooo!!!!!!!). This means that you have agreed all the main points - but is this time to start popping the champagne? No you are still only 90 percent there.

6. Main terms subjects are lifted (Yahoo.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) - 98 percent (you still have the charterparty to negotiate!)

7. Fixed clean - now you can relax - the deal is complete - well almost anyway. Even when you are fixed clean there is a 1 percent chance that the shipment will not happen. Force Majeur, counterparties walking away from contracts, ships sinking, companies going bankrupt, collissions etc etc - all can happen.


What does this mean? It means you must prioritise your time. When you receive an offer from a client this is more important then sending around an order from another client. If you are in the middle of a negotiation and someone asks you to play golf - what do you say?

Check out this diagram


Play it smart - use your time wisely - and watch your bank account grow.
Cheers
VS

Thursday, December 9, 2010

True Story

A magician was once employed by a the old Armada bulk to entertain the crew during long sea passages. It was paid for with the money recieved from the 1,500 CVE the headowner would negotiate in any time charter deal.

Interestingly for the magician, the captain just happened to own a parrot (fun ship to be crew) which always insisted on being part of the acts put on by the magician. He would perch on the edge of the small stage and screech, "He does it with a mirror" or "Hes got it up his sleeve."

The magician was furious, but since the bird was a favorite with the captain and he was anxious to retain his position for future voyages, he maintained an angry silence.

One evening as the magician worked, the parrot continued to harass the unfortunate man. Sadly the ship ran into a mine which had become detached from the sea floor after a storm. The explosion tore the bow off the ship which sank within a few minutes. Amid the wreckage and the lifeboats, the magician sat on one end of a table from the captains private dining room. At the other end sat the parrot, dirty and disheveled, his feathers caked with f uel oil. For some time they eyed each other malevolently saying nothing.

Finally the parrot shook himself and advanced across the table. He fixed the magician with a beady eye.

"Okay, I give up," he squawked. "What did you do with the ship?"




++

He wasnt the only magician working at Armanda in those days. You should have seen the chartering department! (boom boom tish - Im sure I could write for Letterman)

VS

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

If in doubt - pass it on!

A golden rule for negotiations - especially if English is not your first language. If as a broker you are unsure regarding the meaning of a certain sentence, word or term - dont try and interpret it yourself. Go back to your principal and ask them for clarification. The other thing is this - as a broker you may not understand the meaning of everything, but there is every chance that the person you are representing does. So if in doubt - just pass on the message making no changes and without adding your interprative comments. This will save you time and angst.

Let me put this another way - I often see brokers get into trouble by trying to priovide a commentary on something they dont understand. Keep it simple and stay out of trouble. A brokers job is not to be clever. A brokers job is to get a deal done quickly and easily - full stop!

Ever heard of the KISS principle?



Cheers/VS

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Whats with Address Commissions?

BUMP

suraz said...



parcel tanker trade survives on 2.5%.
lets talk about address commissions as well! have seen 5% charterers adcom plus 2.5 brokers thats a whopping 7.5% ... well stupid in a way bcz the owner would have allowed for the 5% in his numbers...are adcoms just a mindset??


November 30, 2010 7:20 AM

++

Jean Paul said...


I agree with Suraz whereas the Addcom issue is sometimes confusing, if its just a mindset I dont know... I could definitely use some clarification on this one.


By the way perfect blog, I am a big fan of it!


December 05, 2010 9.00 PM

++

Yes Address Commissions (adcom) are a bit curious. Click HERE for my thorough explanation.

I guess the question here is why do address commissions differ so much: - Some charterers don't charge any adcom. some charge the price of a standard brokerage (1.25 pct), most charge either 2.5 adcom or 3.75 adcom and some even charge 4.25 percent and more!

The other question is - why would a charterer charge such a high adcom when in reality this extra cost to the shipowner will be reflected in the freight rate?

JP and Suraz are both right - mindset certainly does play a part!

So here is my take on the matter. Most charterers don't really know why they charge a certain adcom. The amount they charge will depend on the advice given to them by brokers, what their competitors may charge and if they are more sophisticated by what their accounts department also think they should charge to cover the cost of their shipping departments.

There is one other reason - and I think this last reason explains the randomness best. The most savvy charterers realise that sometimes by charging a high adcom - they make free money.


Big call? let me explain - imo the charterers who do charge a high adcom are clever. Here is the reason. Logic will say that when a shipowner does a voyage calculation the adcom is just another cost - so the higher the adcom the higher the freight rate. So if all shipowners are in the same boat (all are being charged the same adcom) then the playing field is even and no one really loses.

But consider this. When you read a market report - do you notice something that is invariably missing?

Eg you might see 50,000 hss USG / Japan scale bends USD 23.00 pmt

What is missing? Yes the commission structure!

When you see a TC market report like this

MV Maria Botto 75,300 dwt pan 86 dely Gib spot tct via USG to med USD 60,000 pd

What is missing? Yes the commission structure!

Its an important aspect of a freight rate and by not quoting the commission structure we are not getting the full picture. Its a curious omission in most market reports.

Psychologically as people and as traders we like to look at whole numbers. When quoting the market we like to say "the biz is worth USD 23.00 pmt" - again no mention of commissions. Or we say this ship wants USD 20,000 for a pac round voyage - again no mention of commissions.

So what does all this mean? It means that on many occasion shipowners forget about the commissions if they are chasing a deal. They care more about saving face, what the market reports will say, what management will say and ultimately this means the whole number price they get for the ship. By whole number I mean Gross result (excl commissions) - rather than the net result.

Here is a real life example in another industry which may better explain.

You sell your house for USD 500,000 in a private sale

Do you tell your father inlaw that you sold the house for USD 500,000 or do you tell him you sold it for USD 485,000 (less agents fees?) - You say 500,000. That's normal.

The newspaper will 500,000, you tell family and friends 500,000, the only person that really cares its 485,000 is the agent, the taxman and your banker.

Summary -  sometimes charging a higher commission can actually put free money in your bank account - not on every deal but if you do 100 deals in a year and 20 percent play on this psychological fact - then that's a whole lot of cash saved.

Do with that...what you will!

If anyone has any comments / disagrees then shoot - its an interesting topic.

Cheers
VS

Saturday, December 4, 2010

This weeks Top 10 - visitors to the blog

United Kingdom 446
United States 327
Singapore 217
India 182
Greece 163
Australia 80
Netherlands 68
Russia 62
Malaysia 48
Germany 45

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Interesting dialogue from the 'shinc vs shex thread

Thought it may be of interest to others

Anonymous said...


Say, I am buyer and have chartered a vessel. Will the term SHEX-sundays, holidays excepted, be to my advantage in saving the laytime? If these days are excepted, then it should mean that I can load the cargo during these days and avoid the usage of laytime against me. Is this correct?

Thanks
December 1, 2010 4:04 PM

++


The Virtual Shipbroker said...


Yes that is correct - but guess what? You are paying a higher freight rate. So you save on laytime but the freight rate charged by the shipowner will be higher. If you agreed shinc load the shipowner (in his calculation) would have allowed less time to load and hence given you a cheaper freight rate...
Moral to the story with laytime - just do as the port recommends and dont try to maniplulate it because at the end of the day you will pay somewhere else...
cheers / VS
December 1, 2010 4:08 PM


++

Anonymous said...


Ok, so, higher freight rate, because I will be taking a longer time to load a vessel and, thus, higher freight rate to the owner. But, if I agreed on SHINC then, I would be risking the higher usage of the laytime, but less cost on the freight, since the laytime would be shorter. Would you say it is a trade off?

Is there a way to call you/office?


December 1, 2010 4:25 PM

++

The Virtual Shipbroker said...


yes thats the trade off. Sorry i can only be contacted by email. If you want more 'valuable' advice you can hire me as a consultant - like other supersmart companies have decided to do. Im cheap and I save you millions...
cheers


VS
December 1, 2010 4:35 PM


End

Point of clarification about SUBJECTS

The word SUBJECTS in shipping speak is a shortened way of saying

Subject to "charterers approval" within 24 hours
Subject to "Stem in order" within 2 days
Subject to "my dog not eating my homework"..

++

You can have 'subjects' in any kind of negotiation. When I bought a house recently the agreement was 'subject to pest inspection' - withing 3 days. Another popular one is 'subject to finance' - 7 days.

So the key here is that 99 percent of the terms and conditions are agreed and now we are just waiting on the 'subjects' before the deal is confirmed. During the waiting period (on subjects) it is not ok to try and re-negotiate the terms and conditions already agreed. That is frowned upon in just about any negotiation...to be sure!



Hope this helps

VS - "Every day above ground is a good day" - Scarface

Monday, November 29, 2010

The subject of the day is SUBJECTS

As we know - shipping has lots of jargon.

Take these two sentences

"Thanks main terms recap, we are now fixed subject charts reconfirmation 24 hours. Please send executed proforma cp for review"

Now - to me this makes perfect sense because I am fluent in 'Shipping'. But the truth is to most people - even those with shipping knowledge like a seafarer, naval officer, maritime business student etc the above means gobbldyigook.

And the thing is that a 'shipbroker dictionary' wont really help either because to understand the words you need 'context'. Interestingly in that sentence not one word is wasted which is a throw back to the time when writing telex messages was super expensive. Virtually every word has huge legal significance.

Anyway - I just thought I would share a discussion I am having with my current students.

For me - teaching the VS Certificate has allowed me to gain amazing insight as to what people do and do not know. We can THINK we know what people NEED to learn but its not until you engage students in meaningful discourse that you have a more than a few revelations. All this amazing and evolving feedback that I receive helps me get better at teaching which in turn will help future students of the VS cert. Thats gotta be good for the industry!

Here is the sentence again

"Thanks main terms recap, we are now fixed subject charts reconfirmation 24 hours. Please send executed proforma cp for review"


Three cheers for anyone wanting to explain to readers the significance of the two sentences.


Go on give it a go...

VS

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Shipping Pedigree

Shipping has an amazing history. Some of Europes great families have been involved in shipping for many generations.

I found out recently that one of my direct ancestors was a ships captain in the Dutch East India Company way back in the 1600's. Found through ancestry.com and verified through church records.

Exciting discovery















VS (15th generation shipping folk)

Which type of shipbroker is best?

This post is in response to a fairly regular question asked by readers of the blog.

It goes something like this - "as an aspiring shipbroker I would like your advice as to which area of shipbroking has the best growth prospects. What type of shipbroker offers the best chance to make millions of dollars etc etc'

This is an understandable question. There are many types of shipbrokers. Check the Clarksons, SSY, Platou, Maersk Websites and you will see many different departments. Dry Cargo, Tankers, Dirty, Clean, Sale and Purchase, Offshore, Short Sea, Derivatives - the list goes on.

But here is the gig. I have said this before - everyday - brokers of all descriptions are making millions of dollars in anyone of the above mentioned sub markets. The average salaries in all these areas are remarkably similar too.

Cant decide?
And it is my sincere belief that all these markets will continue to offer lucrative opportunities for many years to come.

The other thing is this - I could say to you that imo you should move towards for example Dirty Tankers as this is a growing market. The problem is many others in the Industry would suggest the opposite. The commodity, economic, technological and political markets are changing so quickly that goalposts are moving all the time.

Other thing to consider is this. Which department is best sometimes also depends on which company you actually work for. You may be in what you consider a 'growth area' but if your colleagues and current clients are small scale - then you may get stuck in a dead end job. Join a successful firm in a niche area and you may set yourself up for a successful and interesting career.

So bottom line is this - if you are looking for the holy grail - im sorry there just aint one. There is no inside secret or inside story. All segments are booming (due to sustained commodity booms) and will do so for sometime to come.

If you are lucky enuf to actually have a choice as to where you get trained (most trainees get told where they will go) then choose the area that interests you the most - simple.

Yours
The Virtual Shipbroker (all Rounder)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Shipbroker commissions - A question

And a good one too

On the controversial topic of shipbroker commissions

Qte

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Shipbroker commissions.":

Hello VS! I consider myself an experienced tanker broker (15 yrs experience). We run a small brokers shop and conclude business with various charterers and many ship owners mainly in Europe. We normally charge 2,50% brok. commission on vessels less than 20.000 dwt (a usual practice among european brokers) and 1,25% on vessels above 20k size. Recently we run into argument with one of our clients - a ship owner, whose new management have established for themselves that broker can be entitled to max 1,25% brokerage regardless whatever is the size of the vessel and whatever is the business.

I'm wondering what is your opinion on this issue?


Thank you!


Unqte


Many thanks for the question which is indeed a good one. i do have some views on this topic but would like to open this one up to the readers to see what they think.

Anyone care to have 'a view' on this 'interesting" topic. In my book I made the point that many brokers 'dont have much to say" - so here is your chance. Having an opinion is good!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

An open question from a reader

quote

Anonymous said...

Hello VS-

I had a phone discussion with a shipbroker today, and he was telling me about the company and what not. He informed me they have an operations division where they take a "position". What does they exactly mean in the shipping world? I know in Wall Street for instance, that means a company puts of their own money on stock investment.

unquote

Anyone answer what it means to 'take a position' in shipping...?











Join in...

Monday, November 15, 2010

anyone know this site?

http://www.newssummary.info/

Many people visit my site from this site but you need a log in

Bit of a mystery - if anyone can shed some light on this site please let me know

Rgds
VS

Key to Shipbroking Success

CREDIBILITY...

One reader of the blog recently told me (in a private email) that he didnt realise that the market will punish you badly for incompetence. It is true. Many clients, be they shipowners or charterers will give a broker one chance to prove themselves.

So when courting a new client understand that those first few weeks, months - those first few deals, will determine your longevity with that same client. Do alot right and they will cut you some slack - do many things wrong (especially at the start of the relationship) then dont expect a second date!

Shipping is cut throat in that respect. All the more reason to think about how, as a shipbroker, you can continue to build credibility. A broker needs to think about his/her own personal credibilty but also the credibility of the firm they represent.

From a marketing perspective this is known as BRANDING. Everyday brokers need to think about building their own personal BRAND aswell as the firms they represent.

To be conscious of branding is to be conscious of every single element of the communication process - not just very visible things like websites, business names, logos etc.

Every phone conversation, email, sms, long lunch and board meeting is an opportunity to build and sell your brand. Are you making the most of these opportunities?

VS

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Followers

Look - if i can get to 100 followers by xmas I will buy all my followers a round of beer! 

Do it!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Time charter concept - where do ships deliver?

In the world of time charter shipping a charterer and a shipowner need to come to a mutual agreement with regards to where (position) the ship will be delivered.

There are two main spots a ship can be delivered

1. DOP (at the last port where the ship comes open under previous employment)
or
2. APS (at the port of load)

Pilot boat next to Mothership

Lets look at an example. A ship is discharging coal in Japan and will finish in 10 days time. Her owners are now negotiating her next employment which is another stem of coal loading from Indonesia (they will need to ballast there empty).

The parties are in a time charter negotiation and the charterer wants to take the ship APS Indonesia (doesnt want to pay for ballast leg) but the shipowner wants the charterer to take the ship DOP Japan (when she finishes discharging in Japan). So this discussion is about who pays for the ballast leg. That should give you an idea regarding the concepts.

Ok here is a question for all reader of the blog. Apart from DOP or APS delivery can you name other types of Time charter delivery (other than these two)? There are a few unusual ones out there.

Come on and join in - let me know your ideas (even if they are a guess)
VS

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sorry

Quick note - every few weeks I receive a request along the following lines.

Dear VS - Love your blog and books keep up the great work.

Print your books!
About 6 months ago I bought two of your books (great reads) and unfortunately my computer has gone and crashed and taken all the files with it. I did not print out hard copies. Is their any chance that from the goodness of your heart you can send me the books again. Your faithful reader Joe Blog.

Sorry guys - the onus is on you all to print the books when you buy them. I wish I could go into a bookshop everytime i've misplaced a hardcover - but I can't.

Plus I sell the books via a thrid party provider and it costs me time and money everytime I want to send a duplicate. Trust you all understand.

VS

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

And another

From a reader of the blog and books

qte

I finally made it to Shipbroker!


Since sending out dozens of e-mails with my cover letter and CV attached, I got an interview with a firm near ......... last week and today have just got their call that I am accepted and to start as of Nov 15 with internship of several month period first.

All my thanks should go to your e-books and blog which I've found renewed and good.

Please keep in touch for further mutual help.
 
unqte
 
Plenty of opportunities in this market.
 
Cheers
VS

Monday, November 1, 2010

Rated tonnage

One of my current students has asked the question...what is "rated tonnage"?

Fairly simple really - Rated tonnage is any market ship that is being circulated with the owners rate idea attached.

Everyday thousands of ships are circulated through the markets giving the salient points.

Name
Size
Brief description
Where she is open

Very few however come 'Rated'.

Here is an example of a ship being circulated (and rated)

Quote

MV Delpiero 23,456 dwt, built 2001, pan flag, 5/5, 4 x 30 tn cranes - open Gibraltar 5-10 December

Wanting trips to the far east and rating same at USD 16,400 per day

Unqte

Above is an example of a ship that carries a rate from the shipowner. The rate is a generic rate and makes the basis for initial discussions should a charterer be interested in her.

Another instance where we use the words 'rated tonnage' is when a charterer calls for 'rated tonnage only'.
This means that a charterer with an open position does not want brokers and shipowners to send him/her ships without rates attached. They are saying "if you send me a ships description with no rate idea I will ignore the message".

Smart idea - it makes the broker work hard to get the shipowners rate ideas and it also makes the shipowner declare his hand early. This works in a soft market. In strong markets its not so easy.

Follow on question for anyone out there

Why aren't all ships rated? Why is it that shipowners refuse to put rates on ships being circulated in the market?

Be good to see some replies - join in...

VS

(note: when we talk of rated tonnage - in general we are talking about time charter not voyage charter)

controversial posts

One of my more controversial posts was shipowner secrets. I can understand how some may see this type of 'creative' endeavor as somewhat unsavory especially in the gentlemans world of international shipping. Even speaking of such things is enough to get me crossed of any number of peoples christmas guest lists (and I have been struck of a few).

I think people are too quick to judge because of the context.

Lets look at a similar situation in a different industry and then ask yourself how you feel.

Scenario - You are Wayne Rooney's (Manchester United superstar) manager and Wayne has told you he wants to leave. Your job is to find him a great new football club and to get him as much money as possible.

That's your job!




Would you

1. Tell prospective football clubs 'yes interest in Wayne is very high' - even if you haven't seen any interest yet? (probably...?)

2. Leek to the media that Barcelona or Real Madrid have shown interest - even if they haven't....(yes)

3. Tell Barcelona in private discussions (weeks later) that Wayne has a re-occurring groin injury and that he can only play with pain killers? (I doubt it)

4.  Tell Wayne that there are lots of suitors and that you (his manager) are just sorting through offers (even if there are no such offer yet on the table - what the &*^% is he paying you for? - we know about the ego's of football players)...

It goes on......like shipping back and forward. But in the Rooney Context it sounds like a bit of fun. When we discuss it in shipping - its much more serious (or is it).

++

And then we have the shipowner (or in this case Barcelona)

If you are Barcelona's recruiter are you going to tell Rooney's manager that the big boss says "get him at all costs"? Not likely. You will play the negotiation game for a month or so and try and see what level the market is. Why offer him 100 million when he will walk for 50 million.

Will you tell Waynes' manager that the football club made a record profit last year and has 100 million in the bank? Or will you say that merchandising has been down and that cash is tight? All the while trying to figure out if the rumour is true that Rooney only wants to play for Barcelona...

That is what a shipowner does too...plays the game. (not just the brokers/player managers who can sometime be easy targets for those claiming manipulation)

Sure high stakes negotiation can be tedious, but it can sometimes be fun too.

You need to have a sense of perspective (and humour) that is for sure. Not for everyone.
Ciao

VS

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Good post from a Reader

Qte

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Alain De Botton and the Virtual Shipbroker":


I have been looking for a site like yours for the past 15 years ""ex fisherman now (bored finacial adviser)"", and when I came across your site I thought it was a scam but since buying your materials and reading of your experience in the industry it was like hearing the Beatles for the first time: if, ships are your thing. I was wondering if it is still possible to buy a Dry Bulk Cargo ship for about 200k and be able to make a decent living from moving it around the world. I know the market died a couple of years ago along with the rest of the finacial world because I used to follow the Baltic Index and have small investments in shipping companies, I wondered why the city types didnt have a finaicial instrument ie index or ETF to follow the exchange as there are lots of shipping "heads" in the city which follow many different indexs, and they could buy it or sell it on a regular basis, Is there now an over supply of ships trying to get work and has the German KG shipping funds completly died. As you said on your blog you used to own ships, Would you buy one now.

Many Thanks
 
Unqte
 
Many thanks the message. I am glad you have enjoyed the books and the blog.
 
The question can you buy a ship for 200k?
 
The answer - add two more zeros....the price of a ship is now way into the millions. 200k will buy you an average cruiser (fits 8) that will take you through the Greek islands at your pleasure. Not however a commercial bulk carrier.
 
But yes everyday - people, companies, hedge funds etc buy ships for millions of dollars and then spend the next 20 years moving this ship around the world making margins where possible. This is shipowning at its purest.
 
WIth regards to futures markets - yes this is now possible. FFA"S are financial intruments available to major shipping players (institutional investors) - not mother and father investors though.
 
Yes there seems to be an oversupply of ships - and scribes have been warning of this for years. The good news is that seaborne trade has also grown. China and India are sucking up the extra tonnage and sofar we haven't seen any prolonged crash in rates. Yes a few years ago we did see a crash but it was short lived and luckily took very few victims with it.
 
The current market cycle is best described as 'volatile'. Anything can happen and anything will happen.
 
BTW - Small point - I said I was a shipowner and by that I mean I worked for a shipowner - one of the biggest. I never personally had an invesment stake in a ship - although if I had 10 years ago I would be posting from my million dollar yacht on the riviera instead of a 10 dollar thatched hut with no running water on the top of a hill in the Himalaya. Million Dollar views though....here comes a yack now! Gotta run.
 
Keep Rockin
 
The Virtual Shipbroker

Free port distance tables

If anyone can recommend a good free website for marine (port) distance tables then please drop me a line.

A number of the free ones have gone awol. So need to add a new link or tow to my Voyage Estimator Website. (One still works)

If I cant find new links I will build my own - lol

Rgds
VS

Friday, October 15, 2010

Some good news for readers of the blog

Hi All.

Over the last year and a half many people have asked me if I could start a shipping forum so that people can share views on various topics within the shipping industry.

You will have noticed that I recently ran an online poll asking for feedback on this very question.

The replies were interesting. As I thought - there are many people out there eager to connect and have meaningful discussions about the shipbroking and chartering Industry. Equally however, many others share my concern that any real discussion will be limited by the reticence of those already in the industry to open up about the way things are done.

International shipping has always been secretive. Remember the mantra - Big Money, Big Ego's, Big Opportunities! It is for this reason that meaningful discussion from industry heavyweights will almost always be limited.

Others have tried to start a meaningful 'commercial' shipping forums and all of them have been dismal failures. Some forums work well especially the ones that allow seafarers and operational personal to swap stories. On the contrary - getting Shipbrokers and chartering executives to talk shop in an open manner is about as likely as middle east peace (although we do hold out hope for that!)

The only way I see that happening is if I throw a million dollar party on a yacht in the Carribbean - free booze and get the guys to start chatting sometime after 12 am! That could be very costly (but also quite entertaining - would need a few sober lawyers onboard just incase things get out of hand)

So what doses this mean? Well I still think there is room for meaninglful dialogue. I also think that my blog has gone some way in breaking down some of the percieved biases for the shipping establishment. Shipping is a huge business and IMO the industry has nothing to fear from being more open about the way things are done. Shipbrokers should also be less fearfull of social media. Its here to stay and enbrace it they should.

How many shipping / shipbroking companies do you know that hire

1. Marketing managers
2. Strategic marketers
3. Strategic analysts (identifying trends)
4. Social media / web  experts

In 15 years from now - most will...

In such a changing world, socially and technologically speaking this is an oversight.

Anyway - enough of my glancing into the future.

Heres the good news...............

One of the good friends of this blog has offered to start a "Virtual Shipbroker" Facebook page. We are still working on how it will work but I envisage that it will allow readers of the blog to connect in a more interractive way then the blog currently allows. Its not a forum but its a start.

We are still working on exactly how it will work but its something to look forward too..

Keep your eyes open for further details

Cheers
VS

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Makes this blog worthwhile

qte

Thanks v much for the guidance and your tips. I have indeed landed a job in .................(withheld).

Its such a relief after a long trek and knocking many doors. I know the journey doesn't end here. rather its the start of a new journey now and what can i say? I am charged up and ready to roll.

Its been a fantastic reassurance to have someone as unbiased and insightful and dependable as you to whom i could turn to for advise. I owe a lot to your 2 books and to your advise.

God bless you in your future endeavours
 
unqte
 
Makes this blog worthwhile!

The Virtual Shipbroker

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Marketing Your Shipbroking / Shipowning / Chartering Service

Most Shipping people are crappy marketers. Marketing is a foreign concept and if a 'marketing activity' does actually take place it is usually by fluke rather than through any considered marketing plan.

Marketing to most Bulk Shipping Firms means 3 things

1. Long Lunch
2. Golf Day
3. Business cards

Believe it or not - these things make up yet a small aspect of the marketing mix and come under PRMOTIONAL Marketing. This a a mere drop in the ocean.

Container companies are much more savvy because they have to be.

Shipbroker/Shipowner Marketing Tutorial 1.

Incase you are wondering how I get people to write testimonials for my blog..


Simple - I ask! If they are happy with my service i ask them to write something nice.

Broking Marketing tip 1329 - Ask and you shall receive

Broking Marketing tip 1330 - Always provide value for money

Broking marketing tip 1331 - Never lose a chance to turn a clients good experience into a chance to promote your service.

Cheers
VS (International Shipping - Marketing Specialist (amongst other things))

Want me to help your firm formulate a marketing plan - drop me a line (See - never miss a chance!)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Institute of Chartererd Shipbrokers

Ok - time for some Straight Talk


I am constantly asked if the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers Exams are worthwhile. My answer is overwhelmingly YES. For any Maritime Professional it is a well respected qualification to have.

I will re-iterate however that most shipbrokers and chartering execs do not have these qualifications. Many do, but most do not.

This is an important point because the second most asked question is "Will completing the ICS exams guarantee me a job as a shipbroker'. The answer to this question is an unfortunate no. There are thousands of people who have completed the exams over the years who have not been able to find employement as shipbrokers.

There seems to be a misnomer by some (mostly aspiring shipbrokers) that the ICS exams are similar to doing a law or medical degree in that on graduation people will be scooped up by shipbroking and chartering firms around the globe. Again this is sadly not the case. It can be an expensive and ultimatley fruitless exercise if this is your expectation.

There is no doubt that the successful completion of the ICS exams will help those already employed in the industry gain more knowledge. Notably it will also help aspirants beef up ones resume.... but in truth probably no more than a Degree in Shipping, Maritime Business or International trade.

Plenty of ways to skin a cat! Some are cheaper than others.

Check out my best selling book 'Inside Shipbroking' for the inside word on what employers are really looking for in possible candidates. Tick many of the boxes and you are IN.

Cheers
The Virtual Shipbroker

Monday, September 27, 2010

Had to Laugh

Qte

Mr. Agent has left a new comment on your post "Strange but True":


Hey VS,

Thanks for your blog - its like crack for me...i can't wait for my daily fix.

I'm a shipping agent on the USWC. Part of my job is providing port costs to our principals. These requests come in waves - One week everyone and their mom will be asking about costs/restrictions for logs ex Kodiak, whereas the next week it will be grain ex Grays Harbour, and then wood chips ex tacoma....etc..etc..etc.

As an agent, communication is the name of the game. If I could get a heads up on what cargoes are hitting the market, it would help me better prep information for our principals. When these cargos become available what venue are they being broadcast/advertised?

Cheers and let me know if you ever find yourself in Seattle.

Mr Agent

Unqte

Hello Mr Agent - Appreciate the sentiment (I think) although this blog or its author does not condone the use of Ilicit substances for recreational purposes (Unlike the wolf of Wall St lol).

Your question is an excellent one. I have been one of those pesky shipowners pushing you for info.

The answer is not one that will make your life any easier. There is nowhere you get to see these cargoes before they hit the market - if there was then the shipowners and brokers would know about it too. You will always be second unfortunately.

What happens is this - a charterer will come out with a new market cargo - within minutes the shipowners will then be trying to run voyage estimations.  key component of voyage estimation are the port costs (and restrictions if any). So that is why you get email requests at the same time. Each shipowner is trying to beat the other in terms of cost and speed of reply. As a shipowner I always liked being first to offer - usually within a few hours of a cargo hitting the market.

Anyway - sorry couldnt help much and yes if I ever make to Seattle I will look you up. I am a grunge generation (only JUST) dude and always loved the Seattle Sound.

Keep rockin, stay off the crack and keep in touch..

A sober (Beer and Sav Blanc excl)
VS

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Strange but True

Reading a biography about Richard Branson last week. Think he is an interesting dude. Bit strange but essentially someone who has made his own way following his own rules.

Incredibly - for a person worth a few billion bucks did you know that Richard Branson did not know (until a few short years ago) the difference between Gross Profit and Net Profit. Think about it....owns 300 companies, worth a few billion, revered for his business acumen and yet didnt understand one of accountings most basic concepts.

Whats the moral here? I dont know exactly but sometimes I think the keys to success have little to do with knowing what everyone else does. Maybe its more about understanding systems. I think the greatest asset that someone like Richard Branson has is his ability to make decisions. That in itself is a great skill. Most of us sit around thinking about how life could be and yet very few of us make proactive decisions to make anything come true. Branson likes a business - he starts it (or buys it these days)

Someone once said that the sum of ones life can be seen by the decisions they make (or the decisions they never make) be that about business, type of job, money, relationships, study or what you do in your spare time.

On another note I should tell you about an interesting encounter I had recently. On holidays with my wife and children I had the distinction of meeting none other than 'The Wolf of Wall st" Mr Jordan Belfort.

I was taking a walk, buying some ice cream for the kids and who should I see walking the other way but the Wolf Himself (and his Blond Partner). Both groups stopped (my troupe and his) to watch some kids busking (they were pretty good). I could not help myself and decided to mosey on over and introduce myself. I had just read his latest "catching the Wolf of Wall St" and was therefore primed for a bit of celeb chit chat.

Nice guy these days - reformed but not so reformed that he doesnt still have a glint in his eye. We chatted for 20 minutes and he even met my wife and my mother - who went into shock when she realised who she was confronted with.

His story in 'wolf of wall st' although extreme is not overly dissimilar to some aspects of shipping culture. I jest not. We had a bit of a chat about this aswell...hehe all good fun...most of the time anyway!

Keep Rock'n
VS

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Letter of Indemnity for non presentation of Bills of Lading

Ok - So the cargo of coal (or any other dry bulk) is on the water (in transit) and it appears the paperwork (original bills of lading) will not arrive to the discharge port in time. A shipowner will not discharge the cargo unless the bills of lading are there. If unavailable the only other way to get the cargo discharged is if charterers agree to sign a Letter of Indemnity.

The shipowners sends the charterer his Letter of Indemnity (LOI) basis his P and I club wording. This is standard but also a painful process. If a full stop or a comma is out of place then it will not be passed. I have spent hours getting this part of the process right because the loi needs to be passed through the chain right back the the head owner of the ship.

Make sure you start working on the LOI as soon as the ship has left its load port. As a broker you should be asking owners for their LOI wording and on receipt you should pass throught to charterers. Charterers, agents and brokers should be keeping an eye on the whereabouts of the original bills and if there is a slight chance they will not arrive in time then the LOI process should then be in full swing.

Again I must re- iterate...getting thr LOI wording correct, the process can take days. So dont be caught out and leave it till the last minute.

Yours
VS

Monday, September 20, 2010

VS Dry Cargo Chartering and Shipbroking Certificate - New Intake

NOT LEARNING FAST ENOUGH? WANT TO LEARN FROM THE BEST?

On its third intake and now ready to go!

THE VS DRY CARGO CHARTERING AND SHIPBROKING CERTIFICATE

Testimonials
=========

Going through the VS Dry Cargo Chartering and Shipbroking Certificate not only provided me with hard to find procedural knowledge on the chartering routines but, specially, the mindset --and the jargon and the 'respectful informality' implied by it-- that governs the relationship amongst shipbrokers, shipowners and charterers.


The privilege of being assigned realistic e-mail exercises on a daily basis by an experienced and successful shipbroker rewards the trainee with first-rate feedback and clarifications that span from shipping business theoretical knowledge all the way to the shipbroking community's Zeitgeist and written communications style.


What impressed me the most was VS' unfaltering availability, his openness towards all types of enquiries, his outright frankness and, above all, his genuine concern for the professional development and career progression of his students. I cannot overstate his commitment to the promotion of the shipbroking profession.

Luis AV (Americas)

++

'The Virtual Shipbroker Dry Cargo Chartering and Shipbroking Program was fantastic, I recommend it to anyone - awesome info, fair work load, great teacher and teacher's support along the way, good friends and incredible times. I would like to thank you VS simply for The Mentor Program it-self, it is absolutely worth the time and money.

My personal rating 6 stars of 5! :)'

(Mark B - Europe)

(If you would like to contact these students for verification just drop me a email)

MORE DETAILS

- Suitable for all chartering roles; Shipbroking, cargo chartering, shipowning and freight trading.

- Suitable for those with very limited thru to intermediate experience.

- Next intake scheduled to start 01 October 2010

- Request for enrolment by September 27th.

- Limited spaces. I reserve the right to accept or decline any students as I see fit.

- Roughly a 4 month program - depending on speed of student. We have flexibility.

- Student assigned a daily email task which to be completed within 24 hours

- VS replies with comments and suggestions within 24 hours.

- Time needed = approx 30 minutes per day. If you can't spare the time don't enrol

- Course can be tailored to specific needs.

- All study material available from 'Inside shipbroking', 'shipbroker Fast Track' and the Internet.

- No grades, no tests HOWEVER each task needs to be completed successfully before moving onto the
next.

- First 2 weeks money back guarantee (if you are not happy with the format you can drop out and get your money back)

- Price USD 975.00 per person. This price includes Inside Shipbroking and Shipbroker Fast Track. If you already have these two books the price of the course is USD 925.00 per person

- Open to individuals and campanies alike.

- On completion you recieve a recap of the material taught and a real life certificate to hang on your wall !

- Can be taken on an anonymous basis (apart from yours truely no-one ever need know - privacy guaranteed)

Some comments

The purpose of the Program is to provide students with a “hands on”, interactive education that is unavailable anywhere else. There is no syllabus and the format is very relaxed and informal. I set the student a daily task and it is the job of the student to complete the task and answer the questions.

In general we cover

- Voyage charters
- Time charters
- Different markets (ships and cargoes)
- Negotiation

A key element to the Program is the process of communication. All other courses teach you facts and figures. I teach you fact and figures but I also teach the processes and the language of shipping. For example; How to send and reply to emails in an appropriate manner. Timing, wording and reading between the lines. We use real life examples of using real ships and real cargoes.

Importantly we concentrate on the negotiation process. You will participate in a voyage charter negotiation and a time charter negotiation, with a fellow student (with me playing the part of shipowner and charterer).

The process always starts off with a bang with both student and teacher (me) fully motivated. After 1 month it is my experience that a little bit of fatigue sets in. We struggle for a while and then break on through having a great time in the last month before graduation. It is a learning module after all and there are some dry topics that we must cover.

All up – you can see from the testimonials, students who have completed the course found it to be a very positive and valuable experience.

++

To make a request to be accepted (and if you have any questions) please send me an email to

virtualshipbroker@yahoo.com

Tell me your name and a little bit about your background and why you would like to do the course.
Spots are VERY limited so hurry. I havent yet decided on optimal student numbers so there is some flexibility. As a guide current intake was 6 students.

I reserve the right to decline any application. The course is not suitable for everyone and I will make a judgement call only accepting those I think will benefit the most.

The certificate is not sanctioned by any educational Institution. It is what it is - a professional development course for those with a little/intermediate 'chartering and shipbroking' knowledge, wanting to fast track their progress.

Think of it as having your very own highly experienced (and successful) mentor shooting you interesting questions and setting interesting tasks. I am no full time academic with little real life experience, nor am I an overworked shipping executive poorly inclined to teach you his tricks of the trade.

I look forward to hearing from you

Regards
VS

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Someones listening - Self trimming bulk carrier cont...

Qte

BIMCO/ASBA issue guidance on "STBC" c/p term

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

BIMCO, working together with ASBA, has developed an interpretation of the term “self trimming” as used, but not defined, in Clause 12(a) of the NORGRAIN ’89 charter party. The term “self trimming bulk carrier” or “STBC” is frequently misused in the dry cargo sector as a general description of a ship’s characteristics, regardless of the type of cargo to be carried.

The Special Circular issued by BIMCO (Special Circular No. 5, September 2010) contains an interpretation of the term “self trimming” found in Clause 12(a) of the NORGRAIN ‘89 charter. The interpretation has been jointly drafted by BIMCO and ASBA (the authors of the NORGRAIN form).

In addition, the Special Circular contains useful guidance on the proper context in which a vessel should be described as “STBC” or “Self Trimming Bulk Carrier”.

It is hoped that these guiding notes will assist the dry cargo sector in avoiding disputes that arise out of the mis-description of a vessel as “STBC” when the term is not appropriate to the type of commodity agreed to be carried.

Unqte

Tks Suraz


Here is the circular

qte

From Bimco - 05th Sept

Definition of STBC - Self Trimming Bulk Carrier – NORGRAIN „89


BIMCO and the Association of Shipbrokers and Agents, USA Inc, (ASBA) have jointly drafted an interpretation of the term “self trimming” as used in NORGRAIN ’89 and also developed some guidance notes to help avoid the frequent misuse of the vessel description “STBC” in the dry cargo sector.

NORGRAIN

In Clause 12(a) of NORGRAIN ’89 a reference is made to “self trimming” but no definition is given. ASBA, as the authors of NORGRAIN ’89, have worked together with BIMCO to produce a welcome interpretation of the term as follows:

For the purpose of Clause 12(a) of the NORGRAIN 89 Charter Party, the term self-trimming is intended to mean that when loading a full cargo of free flowing grain in bulk (any and all grains as defined by the International Grain Code) in all holds, no additional trimming other than customary spout/loader trimming will be required.

Use of the term “STBC”

BIMCO and ASBA recommend, for the avoidance of doubt, that when using the term "STBC" in a charter party, it is expressly stated to which cargo commodity the "self-trimming" characteristic of the vessel shall apply, i.e., "STBC - when loading of free-flowing grain cargoes only".

Notes on "STBC"

A bulk carrier described as STBC (Self Trimming Bulk Carrier) in a charter party for commodities other than grain means that the vessel is able to self-trim specified free-flowing cargo when loading by virtue of the physical characteristics of the design of its holds without the need for additional trimming.

In a time charter party the question of whether a vessel is "self-trimming" is dependent on the physical characteristics of the vessel's holds and subject to an agreed and specified list of cargoes that can be carried.

Owners and brokers should exercise care when describing a vessel as a "STBC" to ensure that the cargo contracted to be carried is physically capable of being self-trimmed when loading by virtue of the vessel's hold design. STBC will not apply to all dry bulk cargo commodities and owners may incur additional liabilities and costs if manual cargo trimming when loading is required by a vessel described as "self-trimming".

Source: BIMCO Documentary Affairs Department: documentary@bimco.org
 
unqte
 
Cheers
VS

Sunday, September 12, 2010

No one is perfect

Least of all I.

Thanks to the person who reminded me that the picture of the ship on my "VS Dry Cargo voyage estimation pack" was infact a tanker vessel.

Not great - and I blame the person who designed the cover for me (a non shipping person). The mistake didnt actually register with me for a few weeks (I probably thought it was a gearless BC) after which time I promised myself I would get around to changing it. So after some prompting I have now changed the cover picture.

Thanks (I think) to Scotty my IT Geek (guru) for hire.

Regards
VS

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Chinese economy looking very healthy which is great for shipping

Quote

Chinese international trade soars September 10, 2010

China's exports rose 34.4 per cent in August from a year earlier and imports were up 35.2
per cent, the General Administration of Customs said today.

That left China with a trade surplus of $20 billion, compared with a surplus of $28.7 billion in July.

The median forecast of economists polled by Reuters was for exports to rise 35 per cent and imports to climb 26.1 per cent, with a projected trade surplus of $27.1 billion.


Reuters

unqte
VS

Shipbrokers and the law

I am consulting for a trading company. Part of my job is to help negotiate but also a huge aspect is to educate the chartering person so that one day he can fly alone. This process can take years because their is alot to learn. I am still learning and I still have a mentor to help me with the occassional thing that needs clarification (yes even VS continues to learn).

Last week we were discussing recaps and charterparties. The discussion made me realise that many new people to shipping do not realise the significance of every paragraph, every word, every full stop, every comma and every verbal conversation that takes place during a formal negotiation (offers, counter offers etc)

The brokers job is to account for all these aspects of the comminucation process. That is why one needs to be organised and also to have an understanding that just about everything CAN be significant. Not ALWAYS significant.....but sometimes.

No need to remind those that have been around for a while that many things can and will go wrong during the course of a day. When they go horribly wrong things get ugly very quickly. And guess what? if there is an area of 'legal contention' highly paid lawyers will be sifting through the brokers notes and emails looking for 'negligent' work in the hope of pushing responsibility out of the laps of their clients and into yours.

Moral here is

DURING A FORMAL NEGOTIATION
- know your stuff
- keep good records
- never assume that you can change things / omit things / add things without checking and reconfirming
- always get your principals to check your work and sign of on it (through the process)
- have professional indemity insurance


Onwards and Upwards
The Virtual Shipbroker

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Incase you were wondering...

Interesting stuff that Blogger allows me to see and check. They now give me stats and here are the results telling me people from which countries read my blog the most.

The numbers refer to individual page hits per month from each country

The top 10 are

United Kingdom 2,712
United States 1,794
Singapore 1,567
India 856
Greece 594
Denmark 488
Germany 473
Australia 303
Canada 299
South Korea 150

also check this out

Pageviews by Operating Systems


Windows 5,697 (85%)
Macintosh 661 (9%)
iPhone 152 (2%)
Linux 36 (<1%)
BlackBerry 27 (<1%)
Other Unix 19 (<1%)
Nokia 14 (<1%)
iPod 14 (<1%)
SonyEricsson 3 (<1%)
iPad 3 (<1%)

Not bad info for a free website platform

Cheers
VS

VS Voyage estimation software and tutorial

Sales were a little slow to start with but happy to say that many of you have now bought the VS voyage estimation software and tutorial.

Sales have really picked up in the last few weeks. Getting a good cross section of buyers too - from shipping companies, individual brokers and chartering officers, all the way through to trainees and students.

Some of you may have noticed that the pack is discounted for the time being. Will be putting it back to its RRP soon.

Thanks to everyone for the support of this project.

Cheers
VS'

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Market remains firm

Yep market remains firm.

You have probably noticed I am taking a short break from my consistent postings on this blog. In the the 18 months the blog as been in existence I think I have done fairly well averainge more than 10 posts per month.

I am extremely busy at the moment and in truth I just feel like taking a breather from my regular contributions. Fear not! I aint going anyway. Its a short 'non posting' sebatical to recharge the batteries. I will fire up again soon. I check the blog and emails everyday so please keep the communication coming if indeed you have something to ask me.

Cheers
VS

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The market has fought back nicely

click here to check the BDI which back around the 2,500 mark.

Nice comeback!

I have recently landed a new account and thats been keeping me busy. Lots of travel over the last 2 weeks. Sorry to those waiting for a reply from me.

Reverting Soonest
VS

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The shipping markets are roaring back!

Well sort of...more of a whimper in a high C rarther than a roar.

Its not a bad recovery in all honesty with the BDI touching the 2,000 point range.

Check out my voyage estimator blog to see the graph (and when you are there why not purchase the VS voyage estimation pack - its awesome..trust me im a broker)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Self trimming bulk carrier

I should extrapolate a little further on my last posting. You see the term 'self trimming bulk carrier' is one of those terms that makes lawyers very rich but in reality does very little for the profession.

Infact there is no such vessel, recognised by class or any other official means, as a self trimming bulk carrier. This term has crept into the chartering venacular and really should only be used in association with the cargo it will carry. Any other cargo other than 'freeflowing grain cargoes' renders just about all dry bulk carriers 'non' self trimming. ie most bulk cargoes require extra trimming.

Anyway - here is my suggestion. All parties should just avoid using the term. What you are worried about at the end of the day is the 'time and cost' of extra trimming - so stick with thatt and agree a suitable clause.

Example - all time, cost, risk of extra trimming to be for owners (or charterers) account.

Cheers
VS

Friday, July 23, 2010

When a ship is not the ship you thought she was!

You would think that a ship is a ship is a ship...but no a ship is not always the ship that you think that she may be. For a ship ‘should be’ what it is – but it isn’t – well not always anyway. It should be what you can see, what you can feel and what the ship owner tell you it is.

But here is the scoop. In a negotiation a ship is sometimes not the ship you thought she was. Yes it’s true. A ship is a harlot and a shameless chameleon capable of miraculous and sometime sinister change. Change by the slight of a pen and the whim of its controller.

Come closer.....a little more. Let me explain..

One day I chartered a big ship and she was an important big ship because she was going to carry one of my companies’ most important cargoes - wheat. Now as you know wheat becomes flour and flour makes bread – and bread feeds the world. So it was an important cargo. Anyway this big imprtant ship was described on the shipowners own website as a single deck ‘self trimming’ bulk carrier and yet on fixing the ship the shipowner refused to have the words ‘self trimming’ appear in the contract. The shipowner said ‘don’t worry your little head about it. Look at her she is a ship and a ship is a ship is a ship and she will load your wheat and all will be fine”.

So the ship arrived and loaded the cargo but alas there was a problem. The ship could not be loaded to full capacity because the ship which was a ship was in fact a ship designed in a funny way. This was a disaster...... because as you know the world was waiting for the wheat and wheat feeds the world.

So in order to load the ship in full we had an argument about who should pay the extra cost and time for ‘trimming’ to allow the ship to load in full. “It’s your cost and time” yelled the shipowner because my ship is just an ordinary ship and if you want extra things to happen you must pay. Then I said “what kind of harlot cannot load wheat up to the top of each hold.........your website says that she is self trimming which means that she should be able to”.......and so it goes...

I had to pay because the words 'self trimming' although on a website were not infact in the contract agreed.

The moral here is this. A ships description is every bit as negotiable as the cargo or the time charter order in question. If you don’t like the description of a ship then you have every right to “try and change it” in a negotiation. Off course this doesn’t mean that the shipowner will accept the changes but some things are well worth trying to change or at least qualify the meaning.

Particularly evil misrepresentations revolve around things like

- The vessels speed and fuel consumption. These can often over stated so as to make the ship appear a better performer than what she is...and hence make you pay more for her.

- The use of the terms ‘about’ and Wog’ in describing elements of the ship

- The hiding of previously accepted terms such as ‘self trimming’ to avoid possible delays and costs with loading and discharging

- Trading histories, recent damage, grounding etc It’s ok to include general clauses to protect the charterers interest during the entire voyage. Eg, “owners agree and warrant that the vessel is suitable in all respects to load the said cargo and to perform the intended voyage”

Buyer beware - and another reason to have your wits about you in a negotiation..
 
Dont get me wrong I love ships even if these ships are not the ships I originally thought they were. I even like ships that have had 'work done' and ladies that are over 25 years of age. I dont discriminate. I cant afford too...my company has needs. But like any relationship you can never judge a book (or a ship) by its cover...

Find out as much as you can before you get in over your head...

Cheers
VS

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Prediciting a market turnaround!

From Tradewinds

Quote

BDI blues ‘temporary’

Michael Bodouroglou has dismissed a recent plunge in the dry-cargo market as a “temporary dip”.


Paragon Shipping boss Bodouroglou says the losing streak which saw spot rates crash by over 60% has not been matched in the period or FFA markets which have fallen by only 15% and 3% respectively.
Michael Bodouroglou.


Speaking on a Dry Bulk Webinar organised by Capital Link, he said: “What this says is the current spot rates are only a temporary dip.


“I think this sentiment is enhanced by the fact the DBI has recently rebounded.”


Bodouroglou says a reduction in newbuilding slippage rates and delays played a part in the crash, which saw the Baltic Dry Index fall for a record 35 consecutive sessions.


However, he argues the main cause was the “over-inflated” price of iron ore, which led the Chinese to switch to domestic sources.


“Already miners are thinking of returning to sell at spot prices. When spot prices are below the current contract prices the Chinese will start importing and, inevitably, the market rates will go higher,” Bodouroglou said.


Akis Tsirigakis, CEO of Star Bulk, says earlier this year China responded to higher iron ore prices by increasing its stock piles from around 40 days to 72 days. This supply is now being eaten away and he expects demand will soon return.


“There is a poker game being played between the Chinese steel mills and the miners, BHP, Rio Tinto and Vale,” he said. “The Chinese do need the iron ore, so at some point those stock piles will be sufficiently low that imports will have to resume.


“I would expect another month to a month and a half or possibly two of relatively low activity followed by a strong fourth quarter, if I may read my crystal ball properly, and possibly even a spike [in the BDI] if we see a flurry of activity to replenish those iron ore stock piles.”
Akis Tsirigakis.


Tsirigakis says reduced port congestion has also dented rates of late. But he expects queues at key ore terminals in Brazil, China and Australia to start growing again in the fourth quarter.


“While the primary factor in the June and July capesize market fall is the pronounced slowdown in Chinese iron ore imports, the impact of port decongestion releasing more ships into the market has been an additional negative effect on the freight market,” he said.

“I believe this is going to reverse relatively soon and I expect congestion to increase in the third quarter as Chinese iron ore imports pick up to rebuild stock piles.”

Bodouroglou, however, did concede the newbuilding orderbook is a worry.
Given the high percentage of capesize newbuildings in the pipeline he says it is “inevitable” supramaxes and panamaxes will continue to outperform their larger rivals on the spot market.


By Andy Pierce in London
 
unqte

Trainee shipbroker (tankers)

click here

Monday, July 19, 2010

More about the current market

One of my students (VS dry cargo shipbroking cert) asked the following which I thought would make for good discussion

qte

Good to see the BDI is up.
Wanted to ask - To what level does sentiment play on freight rates? Like stocks, can a general consensus push or drag freight rates? i guess for ships there is a more tangable/physical element. but if all ows/ops expect mkt to rise and hold out for higher rates, would this not push up rates.

Yes, as with stocks sentiment is a huge factor in shipping especially in the short term (volatility). Over the long term (trends) then sentiment plays a part but fundamentals become more important. Many however, argue that all markets are about just about one thing "sentiment". Think about it -  If you FEEL confident you may charter a period ship or build a ship. If you dont FEEL confident then vice versa. No one knows the future so in reality the forward price of something is just a combination of thoughts and feelings (from the market participants).


Read ur last post...if congestions can play such a big role: wont a certain aspect of an increased order book/tonnage be cancelled out by the result of this adding to congestion issues (given constant level of orders)?


(Not really because congestion is predominantly a demand side issue. More demand for coal and iron ore = more shipments = more congestion. Order books issues are supply side. Just because you have more NEW ships doesnt necessarily mean there will be more shipments especially if demand for commodities stays low. What may happen is that an oversupply of ships will leed to layups and scrapping)

Cheers,
VS

BTW we are more than half way through the 'VS dry cargo shipbroking and chartering certificate'. Many of you have expressed and interest to be in the next intake. I will be releasing details on how to enrol sometime in late August.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The markets have tanked part 2

Excellent post made by a reader

quote

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "The markets have tanked!":

I believe reduced congestion, particularly in Australia, earlier this month has also played a part.
"Newcastle's coal congestion in June had up to 61 ships waiting in queue.

The average waiting time for Newcastle's coal port, however, has improved. During the week of July 12, there were an average of 12 vessels waiting to load."

Data I've seen indicates Cape congestion down in the space of a week by 6Mdwt, consistent with the absurd reduction in Newcastle queues. That's equivalent to about 3 months worth of Cape deliveries in one swoop
 
Unqte
 
Yes this is an excellent point. Highlights a few things. Congestion has dropped dramatically in a relatively short period of time doesnt means that PORTS are any more efficient it means that there are less shipments being booked.
 
It also highlights the fact that the 'Markets' may have been so high for so long due in the main to something as inoccuous  as 'Infrastructure issues'.
 
We like to think freight rate are determined by the solid and sensible issues such as the world demand for Steel, or the amount of ships available to charter BUT essentially a massive determinant has been that port infrastructure, or the lack of it, has meant that despite roaring demand, our land based logistical systems have not been able to keep up. I guess this isnt too surprising. Infrastructure projects, by their very nature take years to develop. Plus when you consider that many of the worlds ports (and all of its seaways) are not controlled by private enterprise - then you can see how a spike in demand does not always translate well on the supply side.
 
So is there any good news?
 
YES - after 35 odd days of downward movement the BDI has moved back into positive territory. The dramitic fall has tacken its toll and firms have already moved into defensive mode.
 
Suddenly there is talk of hire freezes, counterparty risk and dare I say it "Economy Class" travel. Batten down the hatches. I expect a steady rise in the BDI and to settle around the 2500 mark...
 
Good time to train up and prepare for the next market rise

Everything happens for a reason
 
Cheers
VS

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Exciting new project

I have had numerous requests from people asking for more information about the 'actual markets'.

With that in mind, i'm working on a new project that will help readers better understand the different market segements. It will also help readers better identify the major palyers in each market segement. There may also be some crystal ball gazing looking at how these markets may play out over the next 12 months.

Keep an eye out

Cheers
VS

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The markets have tanked!

Yes the markets have dropped for 30 consecutive days. Check out the bdi index Here

The extended supply of new ships is starting to make a difference, China's steel industry is in go slow and maintenenace mode and the overall mood is a tad gloomy.

The good news is that we are still nowhere near the lows from 2 years ago and in truth the market now has renewed optimism that any drop no longer means catastrophe. Righty or wrongly scribes are still predicting a rebound in the 3rd and 4th Quarters.

I blame the workd cup. Too much watching not enough doing PEOPLE!

I also blame the great China Currency debate.

I blame to builders of ships. You guys are the only ones who should be sitting on your hands watching the football.

Finally I also blame George Bush - because, well.......... I just like blaming George Bush.

So keep your heads up. Im prediciting that by 2020 the markets will be double what they are now.

I also predicted that in 2010 an African Nation will win the world cup so take from that what you will.

Cheers
VS

Shipbroker Resume's and Cover Letters

Over the last 12 months I have enjoyed helping out many of you with getting your resumes and cover letters right. Apart from having these two things in perfect working order it is also essential you have a plan of attack. No point in sending out emails in cyberspace hoping and praying for a reply.

Anyway...with all the requests I have (coupled with all my other commitments) I need to be a little more time savvy so that i can reply to those who really need my help. So from now on for those of you wanting help with resume's, letters and a plan of attack I will be asking that you make a donation of USD 20.00 by pressing the donation button at the bottom right hand corner of the blog. That will then allow me to prioritise my time in a more efficient manner and help out those who really do need some assistance getting this important facet right. I once paid someone 75 bucks for the same privilege so its still a good deal.

Thanks for your understanding.

VS

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Travel and Shipbroking

This message gets it own posting for two reasons. Firstly its a good question and secondly the poster has said something nice about my blog. That will do it everytime...

Qte

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Why Shipbroking":

Hi Virtual Shipbroker

I am not going to sound very original based on the comments that I read but anyway I'd like to congratulate you on your blog which is very well written and even a bit captivating. I can't really remember how i ended up here but I've stayed much longer that I usually do on such websites. I don't know if it's the casual but insightful way you write or the feeling i had that all my questions were answered before I can clearly formulate them in my mind, but there is something which makes this site difficult to leave.

However there was one question that I asked myself and that I havn't seen yet (well I havn t read aaaaaalll the posts on the other hand but well..): I for one am lucky enough on the money front, my job pays well and is even kind of exciting to some extent, so among the good points that you listed about shipbroking the one that struck me was travel (ranked 2nd in the list!). Because that's what i m missing in my job! but as a shipbroker why, when and where do you travel?? for how long? is it kind of adventurous, do you go to original places, or is it just the usual business trip?

This is what would make a difference with most jobs in my humble opinion.

Thanks in advance and keep on the good work :)

Clement

Unqte
 
Well Clement first let me say thank you for your perceptive comments about said blog. Truth is I try and make it captivating by including interesting topics. And yes I have only recently realised that I write in an informal yet informative style that people seem to enjoy. So I’m running with it...

Travel is an important part of a chartering executives’ job. I reckon I travelled around 8 weeks per year when first starting out. I’m a little jaded these days and it takes something special to get me moving. Something special is a close client, a million dollar deal (commission wise) or an exotic destination.

Mostly be expected to travel regularly for conferences (shipping and commodity), to geographical regions to market your services, occasionally to a ship loading or discharging and if you are lucky to when a "new ship" is being launched. If you are really fortunate they may even name the ship after your good self (or your better half). All ships are feminine remember (referred to as she). I think the names of quite a few mistresses also adorn the hulls of certain huge bulk ships.

Once you create a name for yourself expect to be invited to 'social events' that will require business class travel. Anyone for skiing in Canada, fishing in New Zealand, Horse racing in the Middle East, getting smashed in Vegas, Rugby in Hong Kong, Formula One in Mongolia....I mean Monaco?

Where ever there is a world event expect to find shipping people hogging some of the collective limelight.

Who I wonder is at the world cup....

Cheers
VS