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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

Friday, January 7, 2011

The changing face of cummunication

As discussed previously, shipping has a whole language unto itself. The Genesis of this language, apart from maritime terms, was the need to abbreviate everything in order to cut down on communication costs.

Here is an interesting titbit for newbies (and by that I mean 10 years or less in the industry)

When I started 20 years ago not only was there no facebook, google or WWW - there was no email and no mobile phones.

Now 20 years ago aint that far away. Ryan Giggs was playing first team football at Manachester United and Shaq was midway thru his college basketball career. Both are still playing.

Communication was mostly done via Telex machine, although fax machines were becoming more popular. Telex machines had been around for ever and were used during the great wars to communicate battle conditions (there is every chance I made that last bit up but you get the vibe!)

So sending a telex was a big deal. very expensive. There is no way you could send your clients ships or cargoes to hundreds of brokers or principals around the globe. You would go broke the cost was so high. So back then you needed to be much more selective and think about who you sent messages too and what you said in those messages. Those of us around at those times sometime look back with nostalgia especially in this age where communication is almost too easy and cheap making what is written somehow less important (more disposable).

Telex machines played a crucial role in the office hierarchy. The trainee would be the telex person. Every time the telex machine made a noise the trainee would be up of his/ her seat to check the latest message. if it was a new ship or a new order it would be the trainees job to yell out the details to the more experienced brokers who would then jump on the phones and make those important first calls.

Telex machines

The offices I worked in had colour coded telex machines. Top copy had a red trim, Second copy, blue, third brown, fourth yellow, fifth white. The boss always got RED and down it went so that it was the trainee left with the plainest of all copies. Back then - all this type of stuff was important - to some anyway.

I just wanted to fix.

Communication costs back then as a percentage of overall company costs were probably around the 30 percent mark - falling slightly behind salaries. The cost of communication is now much lower by comparison.

I think Ill take of my Tweed Jacket, have a cigar and listen to my favourite Vinyl Pearl Jam record on my 1980's vintage phonograph.

Happy fixing



  1. fully agree but still nowadays the art of 'good' shipbroking has also largely been dependent on the broker's personal network and his or her communication skills; face-to-face meetings and personal relationships remain essential.

    I hate the massmailing types (who are not brokers in my opinion). It is more like a lottery I guess; if you keep pushing out enough mails everyday you might get lucky once or twice and actually fix. What I really don't understand is that there are still charterers out there taking the risk of fixing with someone they have no background or information of. Plus it makes the work of professional brokers harder as everyday if you have to wade through heeps of rubbish...

    So no I can not boast about a million contacts or so database, I keep my contacts strictly on a personal basis and that seems to do me fine.

  2. Hey JP

    Yes I have a very full 'block senders list'.

    A few great clients is better than many 1 percenters!