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

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Lets talk a little bit more about POWER


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

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

How did this manifest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep rocking

VS

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The VS blog - number 10 on a list of key Shipping Websites

The Virtual Shipbroker Blog has recently been featured in a list of 95 of the worlds most important and useful shipping websites....




Link to site

Lots of interesting stuff on this website for all shipping, logistics and supply chain professionals

Yours
The Virtual Shipbroker



Monday, September 30, 2013

This Blog

Man how time flies..

Started this blog almost 5 years ago....wow...

The books started not long after. So my baby 'Inside Shipbroking' is almost 5 - WTF??

The good news is that book sales along with viewers keep climbing steadily....

I sell between 8 and10 books per week....which humble as it is - you add that up over 5 years and there are a few thousand Mini VS's clones (ok now its gone to my head) plying their trade in the worlds shipping markets....

I would make a guess that no other shipping book (apart from some text books) would be as widely read...

Reckon the country count is now around 80....

Would not be too many new entrants into the industry who have not read 'inside shipbroking'...

Don't be a stranger Ya'll.......drop me a line and let me know how ya doen!




Yours (a nostalgic and slightly inebriated)
VS


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Happened yesterday

At Richards Bay South Africa

160,000 mt of coal on board!







OUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, August 19, 2013

The VS Dry Cargo Certificate

So its been a while since I ran one of these courses. I think I have done 6 or 7 of tyhese courses with over 30 graduates. But Gee they take alot of energy and I just needed a break. In truth i still am not ready to run another course but If i keep getting emails like this one then I just might!

quote

Hi VS,
My apologies for not writing in earlier, especially right after the course. There was something wrong with the other email id that was using and then i was probably too lazy to start a new one all these months......finally i've created a new one thus writing in.

I am happy to report that right after I graduated from the course, i doubled the number of fixtures/revenue I was concluding.

It's been a mix of tc, short period and voyage, more of supramaxes than pmx and handy.

I cannot thank you enough for conducting this course - it takes a lot of generosity, self confidence and positivity to share your knowledge with strangers like me - thus transforming lives and careers.

I came across many situations repeatedly where your education/guidance was absolutely bang-on and concluding the deal was hinged on this, and i found myself thanking you in the back of my mind.

I doubt there is any other course/education in this world which imparts such technical and practical knowledge and the jist of years of experience - keep rocking !!!!

unquote


Gee I have awesome Alumni!

makes this VS thingy worthwhile....

even though I am anonymous and cant really share the success of this blog with others (except a modest few) emails like that allow me to smile to myself as I walk to work each morning knowing that some people are getting something out of my shipping related rants.

Sincere thanks

VS

The answer to the Riddle...



POWER (and influence)




Concepts I admit to struggling with over the years. Power is useful, intoxicating, dangerous and evil all at the same time...........in my opinion anyway.




And the idea of POWER is something that rarely gets talked about at corporate lunches, or business functions for one huge reason. People HATE the idea that they are influenced (even controlled) by those who wield power. If they admit this they admit to not being rational or even susceptible to charismatic individuals who get energy from having power. Hence the cliche's explaining the success of some.

POWER - they way I describe it and have seen it over the years is in many guises and I will try and explain more in future posts. If anyone can relate then I am pleased to hear your stories.

Friday, August 9, 2013

A riddle that took me years to figure out

Like any enthusiastic young buck straight out of university and trying to make a name for myself in the world of international bulk shipping, I worked hard and tried to figure out how the be the best shipbroker I could possibly be. Also - as a then unconscious INTJ (see Myers briggs) I see now that I was constantly trying to solve a riddle (because INTJ's are strategists) that in hindsight was not mine for the knowing - just then anyway.

That riddle - the riddle which I posed to all my mentors, colleagues and clients at any given chance, was also in hindsight out of their reach too..

For this riddle only reveals itself to those who look hard enough - in my opinion anyway. You see the problem was that I kept getting the same kind of answers when I asked a simple question - "What makes a great shipbroker?" and more specifically "who is the best shipbroker in the market?"

It was (and still is) a loaded question mind you because like politics - everyone has an opinion. And sure enough the tried and tested, almost cliche'd answers would waft across my bow - especially with regards to what makes a great broker. The usuals like "hard work", "experience", "great customer service" and 'street smarts". I sucked up these answers keen to take it all on board  - although deep down I had suspicions that I could have got the same answers from any business textbook i had read at university.

As for the other question - "who is the best broker"? a curious thing happened. Unlike politics where people had different views - this elicited a reply more common at a birthday party - just about everyone in my market (which is a pretty big one) sang out the same name....Len Maxwell....(not his real name because that would be embarrassing for both of us). This was over 20 years ago now and yep for the next 15 years whenever a discussion was to be had about who is the best most successful broker 'in the land' Mr Maxwells name would invariably come up. There were a few anecdotes about large deals but the crux of any conversations was that if Mr maxwell was the broker then as a competitor you should concentrate on something else.

As a client having Mr Maxwell handle your account was seen as a fairly important thing....it meant your account was worthy of his attention. In the crazy, high end world of million dollar deals and massive ships those of you new to the industry need only hang around for a while before you realise how reputations are made and destroyed in what is a truly global industry.

So back to the riddle - what in my opinion was the real reason Mr Maxwell was considered the 'Best Broker' in the land and how could I tap into this reservoir of riches and respect amongst my peers?

There was one thing he (Mr Maxwell) had more than his competition......and he had it in droves...

Who can guess what that was?........anyone? anyone?...

(oh and a tip - its not something boring like 'passion' - this is not Oprah - try again!

Friday, July 5, 2013

A question from a reader..

Quote

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

Hi, I am a shipbroker based in the Philippines. I am actually an old timer in shipbroking, but more of an snp shipbroker than a chartering broker. I am not an expert in chartering problems.

I am having a problem deciding whether a situation my shipowners are in is a case of deadfreight or a breach of contract.

It is said that when the charterer advises the shipowner that he cannot load any cargo
on the vessel, this becomes a breach of contract and not deadfreight because the shipowners can still mitigate his losses by finding a substitute cargo.

But what if the vessel has waited at the load port for more than 30 days (laytime agreed is only 5 days and a complete voyage would only be 15 days), shouldn't that
be considered deadfreight because the time lost is already equivalent to more than one voyage. In other words, the ship owner does not have any time to mitigate his losses.

Would appreciate your comments.

This will help me determine how much brokers commissions I deserve to get. If it is deadfreight,
I believe I should get 100% but if it is a breach of contract, according to clause 15 of gencon, I can only collect 30% from the party at fault.

More power to you!

Bobby 


Unquote





Bobby - excellent question and here are my thoughts...

Simple really - This in my opinion is a breach of contract. If the charterer took 30 days to notify the shipowner that no cargo will eventuate and the ship waited in good faith for that time - then the shipowner should be able to sue for the total amount of freight and any losses for waiting 30 extra days (detention).

The shipowners has been given no opportunity to mitigate so they should sue for the full amount i reckon.

So at the end of the day your commission will need to be claimed when and if the parties go to court and the amounts are settled. 

A deadfreight claim (again in my opinion) is only if part of the contract has actually been fulfilled (or started).

If anyone else has a different take own this matter - feel free to contribute

Good luck Bobby and thanks for the email

VS


Monday, June 17, 2013

Dry Bulk Carrier Ship Sizes

There is some debate with regards to the classification of ship sizes. Truth is as ships get bigger and the designs more flexible we have had to adjust the terminology we use.

A few short years ago (ok maybe 15 years) there were four ship sizes

Handy size, handymax, Panamax and Capesize

Here is my take on the current sizes and appropriate terminology
 

  • Very Large Ore Carrier VLOC 210,000 metric tonne dwt (deadweight)
  • Capesize 120,000-209,999 dwt 
  • Post-Panamax 85,000-119,999 dwt 
  • Panamax 65,000-84,999 dwt
  • Handymax 40,000-64,999 dwt
  • Handysize 10,000-39,999 dwt

I love big ships...think I might take up ship spotting and plan my trip to gibraltar (the best place to watch ships) armed with nothing but binoculars, whisky and cigars. I may even go commando.

Heaven (if shipping is your thing).

VS

Monday, June 10, 2013

A chanced philisophical idea


"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both."
---Chateaubriand

I think Alain De Botton probably loves that quote!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

So who is reading the virtual shipbroker?

Its sometimes a little lonely reading (and writing) a blog so occasionally I check out where my audience is coming from. I occasionally let you guys know the details just so that you know you are not alone as VS avid readers. This month was a good month (readership continues to grow) and had approx. 12,000 individual page views. So who's reading?


Last Months Top 10


United States 1959


United Kingdom 1721


Singapore 1442


India 778


Greece 484


Germany 392


Australia 331


France 261


Spain 256


Turkey 253
 
 
France and Spain readership seems to be growing and for the first time they make the top 10. Usually Denmark and Norway come in between 6 and 8 but alas not this month. Must be the warmer weather.
Otherwise all the top maritime nations are there except off course our east Asian friends Japan, South Korea and China who have never been huge readers of these types of blogs (including financial ones too) for various cultural reasons.
 
I will take readers from anywhere - even North Korea or from my home town the tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. I have been speaking to the king about opening a local branch of the Institute of Shipbrokers possibly in one of the local Monastery's that isn't getting much use. But the king quite wisely stated that having a group of shipbrokers regularly attend a monastery is about as likely as the Italian mafia visiting the Vatican....hang on....maybe this could happen...leave it with me.
 
VS
 
 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A word on shipbroking Salaries and revenues

Dry Cargo Markets have been pretty crap for a long time and this means a drop in revenues. I know of at least two large shipbroking companies where only half of their brokers are currently breaking even. The strange thing is that although revenues are down salaries remain firm because finding good, hard working shipbrokers is difficult.

So gimme some numbers vs!

Well in London for example I would guess there are many brokers on around $100,000 pounds a year mark in salary and would be lucky to be bringing in $200,000 in revenue. When you take into account the extra costs a large brokering shop has in terms of rent, insurances, communicatrions, travel etc then profits are slim. In the USA we are looking at similar numbers.

In Singapore where shipbrokers still push for expat packages it is not uncommon to see people earning USD 30k per month (yes that's right) and only making USD 20k per month...so many brokers are infact costing the company money.

I am not sure how long this can last. These situations rely on 'fixing machines' to help prop up the rest of the office.



IMO a current day 'fixing machine' is fixing anything more than USD 500k in any given year. Anything above 300k is a star performer and anything below that is treading water.




All we need is a modest upswing and all this can change....we are at such a low base that a USD 5,000 per day change in the price of chartering a ship can increase revenues by 25 pct.

That's my take

VS

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Market commentary

As many of you know I occasionally provide a bit of market commentary for various market participants and for news agencies like Reuters.

I am currently putting together a report for some clients summing up my thoughts for the remainder of the year.

Thought I would share a few of these observations

Overall the market in my opinion isnt going anywhere too fast or too soon. The biggest stumbling blocks for the shipping industry and pretty large ones. Namely the still large forward order book for new ships which is still outpacing ship scrappings 2 to 1...(in general although this varies a some when we look at specific sizes)

This will change but not just yet..2014 will see closer parity between ships coming in and ships going out!

The other issue is that much of the world is still an economic basket case. Sure Cyprus and Greece have millenia's of great contributions to the world - but in more ways than one it seems that the credit has run out.

And the economic problems in Spain have finally caught up with Barcelona and Real Madrid who have succumbed to the relentless efficiencies of the Germans giants Bayern and Dortmund...WOW 3 NIL at home.....And Messi isnt even Spanish!

Dont get me wrong I love Spain and even intend to live there for a few months next year...and in all honesty and with the greatest regard to my German friends - I dont really want to live there....hang on....good football, fast cars, schnitzel (is this Austrian?) and beer....

Actually a little known fact is that I once did live in Germany...In a place called ULM...between Stuttgart and Munich....3 of the greatest months of my life....but many moons ago...



Then theres America (USA OF) and China - out two superpowers. Mixed reports out of both in terms of the economies....but I reckon things will improve for both....

What does this all mean for the rest of 2013.....treading water...unfortunately...

Keep rocking

VS

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Sign of the times

It made me laugh when a potential new recruit to the industry let me know that many of the largest shipbroking companies require trainees to have a minimum honours degree in something - most likely commerce, trade, law etc.

The funny thing about that is that many of the directors at these companies barely passed high school (not that there is anything wrong with that). You see entry into shipping (chartering) was for hundreds of years the domain of how can i say this without offending??? Ok I can't....Rich kids who were crap at high school.

Rich kids who are smart = Medical Doctor or Lawyer.
Rich kids who are less academic = Shipbroker, Stockbroker, Finance broker etc

(Being academic doesnt necessarily translate into shipping success. Streetsmarts, personablity, and the ability to influence people continue to be he main traits companies look for)

I admit that this old school approach has been changing for 20 or so years.....so requiring a degree, even a higher degree to enter a highly lucrative vocation should not be much of a surprise to anyone....except off course those of us who have enough grey hair to remember when a degree was viewed with suspicion...lol. BTW I have 1 undergrad degree and 2 post grad degrees...so dont shoot the messenger..........

Lots of fun and good luck with your studies

Yours VS

General Stuff

With the markets still at historical lows (despite the occasional upward flutter) shipowners and shipyards continue to struggle, some even going out of business.

So what happens to those ships when the companies controlling them go belly up?

They can be scrapped (if they are old), sold if the market permits or ownership is transferred to the financiers who then have the headaches of working out how to generate income with these behemoths of the sea.

The net result is that prices for ships drop (sale prices) and the markets consolidate. Once again the reputable larger companies are picking up bargains left right and center. Reputable shipping pools are being inundated with poorly clients desperate for help..

++

Interesting to see that TMT (today makes tomorrow) head honcho Nobu Su is stepping down after what can only be described as an incredible career. i can remember 10-15 years ago when his name first emerged linked to deals that seemed unbelievable in timing, scale and audacity. What a ride it has been.

And let me be the first to quash those rumours that the Virtual Shipbroker has been personally handpicked by Nabu himself to take over at TMT...

I asked my tarot card guru and he said - "VS my son keepeth doing not much as not much is plenty under the sun"



Wise words...

Yours VS

Monday, March 4, 2013

Disaster - the Ships running late!

Ok - maybe 'disaster' is a slight overreaction. Having said that no-one likes a late ship..

So how does this play out in the real, cut and thrust, take no prisoners world of international shipping?

Charterers first - they need to give as wide a laycan (window for the ship to arrive) as possible. This needs to be negotiated in the sales contract and also with the port authorities and shippers in question. the greater the flexibility the less chance that a late ship will cause problems. Charterers also should insist on regular updates regarding the ships itinerary so that they can plan for the lateness (contingency planning). Sometimes shipowners are economical with the truth when there ship is running late. Charterers need to play hardball and even be in contact with ship agents at the previous ports in order to get a real idea as to the ships itinerary.

Shipowners - Need to be careful not to agree laycans that they know will be tough to meet. When it becomes obvious that a ship will be late - shipowners get scared. very scared....because the charterers now have lots of power. They can make the ship arrive at the port and then cancel the shipment if they so wish. So YES a late ship is ground for cancellation. Nothing worse for a shipowner to have a ship open Spot with no employment and the probability of no quick fix. I have seen ships miss a laycan, get cancelled and then wait 20 days (at 50 k per day thats ONE MILLION bucks) for a new cargo....Not nice!



So this is why you find that some shipowners tend to be economical with the truth when a ship is running late. They will tell you that everything is fine and then at the last moment drop the bomb that an 'unexpected' delay has occurred at the last possible moment and hence the ship is now running late.

They do this because the later it becomes apparent that a ship is running late - the less the time for the charterer to find a substitute vessel....leaving the charterer stuck and the shipowner still with a contract despite there being grounds for cancellation.

So there you have it - when a ship runs late charterers would like to know asap and shipowners just dont wanna tell them! Fun hey?

Shipowners aren't always the bad guys. i have seen charterers use 'selective' information for evil as well.

Your VS


Saturday, March 2, 2013

By request!

By request

Very Limited Spaces (im not joking either)

THE VIRTUAL SHIPBROKER BLOG PRESENTS

A 2 day professional development course

1st day - Essential Shipbroking and Chartering (Dry Cargo)
2nd day - Fixing Machine - Shipbroking and Chartering Best Practice..

Where: Dubai and London (Venue TBA)
When: May 2013

Who for?

  • Trainee shipbrokers and operations department staff
  • Managers already in shipping and chartering to refresh on fundamentals
  • Ship brokers, owners, charterers, government bodies, lenders and insurers
  • Shipping Lawyers, Bulk commodity traders, purchasing officers for bulk commodities


  • Cost - USD 2,000

    Expressions of interest to virtualshipbroker@yahoo.com

    The Virtual Shipbroker

    Thursday, February 21, 2013

    What happens when a ship is late?

    This is quite an interesting topic in the world of tramp (dry bulk) shipping because you know what ?? Ships are always dam late! Arghhhhhhhhh...

    Being late in itself is ok. I am occasionally fashionably late to dinner parties - its expected. But in shipping the world of fashion (unless you are a broker from Scandinavia) has very little to do with anything.

    Just on that topic - has anyone ever noticed when surfing the websites of various shipbroking firms - the ones from Scandinavia and parts of continental Europe with accompanying photos of the employees, look to have been shot by HELLO magazine. Hair and make up (tick), Tilt of head (tick) - I dont wanna name names but you know who you are!

    A bit like this



    Perhaps a more accurate representation would be


    Director, Senior Vice President, Partner (owner of stilettos - Trixi)



    Anyway

    When ships are late this can cause a myriad of problems. Charterers have a laycan (a window for a ship to be delivered) for a reason. And this reason is usually because it says so in the sales contract between the buyer and the seller. So if the ship is late not only is the shipping contract put at risk but so is the sales contract.

    Organising the cargo for a ship is not easy. One needs to arrange for the cargo to arrive at the port just in time (JIT) for the ship to arrive, then stevedores need to be arranged, as do the services of other ports infrastructure groups like grain elevators and the like. Permits need to arranged and all the paperwork must also be ticked off. So you can see if a ship is late - quite a few people have quite a lot to lose.

    This issue is exacerbated in a very busy port that handles many ships in one day. Imagine then if this port experiences delays due to an accident or bad weather or a strike and then all of a sudden this 'late ship' has to then wait in line for 5 days before it gets loaded....



    At the peak of the markets this five day wait could cost someone a million smackeroonies! not so much these days more like 50 grand....but that would still feed a small American village.

    So how does this 'problem' play out in the real life cut and thrust of everyday shipping. How do charterers and shipowners alike navigate this thorny issue when it appears apparent that a ship will be late?

    That will be my next post....

    Yours
    VS

    Thursday, February 7, 2013

    Great news from some ex students

    This from two close friends of the blog

    I have changed some details to protect the identities - lots of people read this blog you know!

    Quote

    VS/SA
     
    I hope you have been doing great.
     
    It is just to let you know that last month I started as a junior broker at (name withheld but one of the larger firms) European dry cargo desk. This is the opportunity I have been fighting for. This would not have been possible without having kept fresh in my mind what I read from your e-books and learned from your great advice; therefore, I thank you.
     
    Notwithstanding getting this opportunity was quite a challenge in itself, the real challenge starts now. Therefore, what I have learned from you will remain of great help and guide me forward.

    Once again, thank you.

    Best regards,
    SA

    unquote

    and

    quote


    VS/NL

     
    Hi VS! Hope all is well. So it has been almost a year since I have ended the VS course and I figured I would just let you know where I am at.

    If you recall, I was able to enter the industry by getting an internship at (name with held but one of the worlds largest shipbroking firms). Well, that went well and was a great experience, but it ended up being a dead end. I No bitterness as I was fully aware some of these shops work in political ways, so when it came time to move on, I did.

    I had a little bit of difficulty re-entering the industry once I left. It took some time but I barked up every single door until two great opportunities came my way.  Both offers were about equal, but I decided that I would take up the role with (name with held but one of the biggies). There were many reasons but the primary reason was that I believe to have found a mentorship type relationship with the individual who hired me.  I hope I made the right decision but I will only know in a few months. 
     

    And all of this wouldn’t be possible if I hadn’t taking your course. Thanks for everything VS. I hope to be fixing soon. So be ready to receive another email once I get my first fixture.
    Regards,
    NL
     
    unquote
     
    Two very wise dudes on the path to shipping greatness....and very nice people too!
     
    Those emails make this blog worthwhile
     
    Yours
    the Virtual Shipbroker
     

    Tuesday, January 29, 2013

    An answer for Ben!

    Ben has left a new comment on your post "Inside Ship broking and Ship broker Fast Track.":

    Hi VS,

    Wonderful website and book. Congratulations! I have finished your book in a day and it has been a pleasure.

    I have a question on a typical day for a shipbroker. While I understand every company organises their staff differently, I would like your opinion to reconcile my observations with what I have gathered from your book.

    In the latter chapter on 'Orlando', it appears to imply a shipbroker's main task is a fixing machine. During my interview with company B, I saw how fixing a deal is just the start of a long process of servicing the clients.

    The shipbrokers (not the operation executive) were in close contact with the charterers to resolve problems such as delays, cargo problems, and ensuring the goods arrive in good condition.

    Have the roles of operations and shipbrokers become convergent? Or does the job of the shipbroker continues until the goods get delivered?

    Thank you!
    Ben

    Posted by Ben to The Virtual Shipbrokers Books and Information at January 27, 2013 at 6:05 AM

    Unquote

    Ben - thanks for a great question. For most of my career as a shipbroker (remember i was also a shipowner and a charterer) I pretty much handled everything from fixing the deals right down to invoicing for payment. This also included doing 90 pct of the postfixture work along the way.

    infact for most of the shipbroking fraternity they do not have the luxury of a 'post fixture' department. Most shops are quintessential small business's employing 2 or 3 brokers and one admin staff. So for many doing a full service job is necessity rather than choice. The middle to larger shipbroking companies do have extra staff to help with post fixture and this can be a godsend when time are busy.

    The interesting point though is that I know many brokers who work for larger firms who refuse to hand over the post fixture duties to designated post fixture staff. This can be for a variety of reasons but suffice to say that if you have a usd 1 million dollar per year client in your pocket you are loathed to pass any responsibility to anyone else.

    So i reckon the circumstances should dictate the systems. It also depends on the client (they may be happy dealing with different people) and depends alot on the quality of the post fix and operational staff. Who would you prefer trying to sort out a complicated stowage problem - a young aggressive dude with nice hair (read shipbroker) or a experienced old master mariner with no hair (postfix boss)?



    Pretty easy answer that one!

    Thanks for stopping by

    yours
    VS


    Thursday, January 17, 2013

    Be kind to shipowners week!

    A client recently said to me that one of his trusty shipowners seems to be in a bad mood recently and wondered if he (the charterer) may have done something to upset the gentleman.

    Possibly.....was my reply. Shipping people are historically a grumpy bunch. long hours, stressful negotiations, deals falling over at the last moment, brokers not returning phone calls - maketh for a grumpieth shipowner.

    Having said that I said a far more likely reason for a less than happy shipowner is simple - the CRAP state of the markets. Rates are so low just about every deal is a loser...which isn't good for most.

    I'm not saying that no shipowners are happy - I am just pointing out that in historically low markets it would seem logical that the losers are the shipowners! Just like in historically high markets charterers would seem to be the losers..........Losers in this game we call dry bulk shipping.

    But alas things in shipping are never that cut and dry. Shipowners with high costs and high debt and large new building order books have every right to be stressed. Their are shipowners however who have managed assets in a better way and infact now have huge competitive advantages with low costs, low debt and low new building exposure. The truth for the majority is probably somewhere in between...

    One thing for sure is that the longer the markets stay in the doldrums - the less likely you will hear a cheery shipowner voice on the other side of the phone.




    Good time to to be a commodity exporter or importer. As a percentage of the overall landed price of most bulk commodities - freight now plays less of a role (in percentage terms). There was a time not too long ago that the freight price for many commodities exceeded the commodity price (in certain markets)

    So I reckon we should have the inaugural "be kind to a shipowner week" starting this Monday....

    Maybe take your local shipowner pout for a boozy lunch or a game of golf. Sounds like a good excuse to celebrate 2013 to me...

    Keep rocking
    the Virtual Shipbroker



    Wednesday, January 9, 2013

    Happy New Year All

    Happy Christian New Year to all the readers. What have i been upto over the last 3 weeks?

    In no particular order
    • Eating
    • Drinking
    • Recovering
    • Exercising
    • Fixing Ships (one or two)
    • Helping people with Cover letters and CV's (many over the Christmas and new year period)
    • Selling Books
    • Lecturing
    • Renovating/Building my house (yes I am helping)
    • Short Vacation to find some elusive 'SUN"
    • Saw 2 Rock Bands (Its true that I try and feel young even though i am not anymore)
    • Played football with my son
    • Watched my daughter try and do the splits (ballet)
    • Wined and dined my wife

    Thats about it........not a bad list...

    And it means I am ready and refreshed for a HUGE 2013. Big things expected for the blog. I would like to thank the continued support of so many readers (over 10,000 hits per month) from around the world. Books sold into more than 70 countries and the consultancy business continues to grow providing many of you with the expertise needed to make your business a winner. Some of the client successes stories have been extraordinary.

    My promise is that for 2013 I will spend a little more time writing blog posts. Shipping is so large and diverse that there are literally thousands of topics that can be covered. The problem last year was that i was so busy. This year I have deliberately allowed more room in my schedule to get the posts back on track. I will also be releasing a new book (the first in a few years) that will flesh out many of the topics I have covered in the blog - plus a few surprises. I am glad I am publishing this because it will make me keep my promise. if you do not see anything from me (by way of a book) then start hounding me!

    Apart from that I want to connect a bit better with the readers so i will be looking at how better to do this. If any of you have any ideas in this regard drop me a line.

    interestingly I have had a few offers to buy this blog. I rank very high on google for just about every shipping term....so people are interested. But i dont wanna lose control. You will notice that I am one of the few successful blogs that doesnt have any form of external advertising - mostly because as an avid reader of other blog - advertising annoys the hell out me.

    Anywayz - I am here to stay - like it or not and i sincerely hope you all keep reading. Drop me a line and say hello occassionally, and keep replying to posts that may interest you. Also if you havent as yet maybe become a follower of the blog. All those things keep me motivated to keep providing you with content that you deserve.

    Love you (man hug)

    awkward



    The Virtual Shipbroker