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 © 2020 by Virtualshipbroker Contact virtualshipbroker@yahoo.com

Monday, July 6, 2009

Alain De Botton and the Virtual Shipbroker

" How ignorant most of us are by contrast, surrounded by machines and processes of which we have only the loosest grasp, we know nothing of gantry cranes and iron-ore bulk carriers, who register the economy only as a set of numbers, who have avoided close study of switch gears and wheat storage and spare ourselves closer aquantance with the manufacturing protocols for tensile steel cable. How much we might learn from the men at the end of a pier on the edges of London. They Inspired this book."

Alain De Botton (philosopher) 'The pleasures and sorrows of work' page 29 - Penguin Books 2009


Here is a great story - keep reading!

Only last week I read this book, 'the Pleasures and Sorrows of Work' from the world renowned London based popular philosopher / essayist Alain De Botton. Some weeks before I had downloaded onto my ipod one of his other books 'the art of travel'. What jumps out in both pieces of writing is the authors more than apparent interest in the mysteries and romance of Shipping.

With incredible wit, drama and insight he manages to take the human condition and apply it to the everyday lives of people like you and me.

He has written several books, written and appeared in several television programmes and recently co founded a new educational establishment in Central London called the school of life.

check out his website on http://www.alaindebotton.com/

So here is the great news. Having read a number of his books (and watched his tv shows - i am a true fan) and noticing the interest in shipping I took the opportunity to send Mr De Botton an email in praise of his writing and asking about his interest in shipping.

Like any good broker I also took the opportunity to mention my Blog and my vain attempt at the occassional bit of amateur philosophical intercourse.

Guess what! To my great surpirse he answered my email......

Here is his reply


Dear VS

I love your blog and its underlying philosophy of life (wise, wry, sceptical). Thank you so much for reading my book - and I wish i could have met you during its writing so as to be able to benefit from your insights. You perfectly fulfill my idea of a modern model human who combines the active and contemplative life.

With very good wishes

Alain De Botton (Monday 6th July 2009)


So there you have it everyone. My head is huge. If my nonsensicle rantings are good enough for the wonderful Alain De Botton then your patronage of this website has been well worth the risk!

In all seriousness though, a huge thank you the Alain for taking the time to read the blog and reply with such humour, to the email of a starry eyed fan.

There is a nice moral here aswell. Never be afraid to send emails and ask questions - you never know who might reply!



  1. Hi,

    Completely random question:
    Are you familiar with the phrase "Delivery ex yard [date]" ?
    Keep seeing it come up but I have no idea what this "ex yard" is...!


  2. Hi

    Ex yard - means you have a lovely new born ship coming free straight from the shipyard.

  3. Just wanted to say that after my post regarding Alain de Botton I have a record number of personal emails asking me questions. i have done my best to answer them all privalely and will over the next week or so make a few posts regarding the topics discussed.


  4. VS/MK

    How can you prevent the onwners and/or charterers skip the broker? perhaps after a few fixtures


  5. Good question MK

    I will answer your question in a new post over the coming days.

  6. Dear VS,

    I have recently graduated from university and am currently applying applying for trainee/graduate positions with every shipbroking company I come across. Anyway enough of that. One of the applications asks the question

    'The global financial markets have changed quite significantly. What are the challenges that shipbroking companies will face over the next twelve months?'

    I have no experience in shipbroking and cannot seem to find any good answers on the internet. Being the guru of shipbroking I am interested to see how you would answer the question.

  7. Hello Anon

    Because you called me 'the guru' of shipbroking I will be gracious enough to give you an answer.

    I first have to say that 'dont you love these questions - not!' Most likely dreamed up by a HR department that needs to justify its hiring process..

    Why they expect / suspect that a 21 year old can see past the pub, their lobido and their next paycheck is anyones guess.

    Having said that we should try and answer the question with as much aplomb as possible..

    Any campny, not just shipping companies, would need to consider the following things during a financial crisis

    1) Decrease debt
    2) Decrease costs (hring juniors is a good way of doing this)
    3) Maintain current client base (its harder to find new clients than to keep good ones)
    4) Offer new services (finance is the latest hot thing)
    5) Keeping successful shipbrokers happy.
    6) Keeping up morale as revenues decrease
    7) Providing ongoing training and leadership
    8) A big one is the fact that shibrokers earn their revenue in USD. And the USD has taken a huge hit against most currencies. So Shipbrokers need to manage this risk.
    9) Greater access to China, India and part of South America
    10)Market their products in a more effective manner.

    It is written.. (

    BTW I would not write all those down - pick your top five and the ones that are least likely to offend!

    Thanks for the great question


  8. 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

  9. Btw the above post was one of my favourites of all time from the ex fisherman / bored financial advisor. I didnt leave him hanging either as it may seem. I did a seperate post discussing his question..