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

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.


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...


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Prediciting a market turnaround!

From Tradewinds


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

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


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)


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


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
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

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


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.


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.


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...


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 :)


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....


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

World Cup

I see that l'Orange is the new black!

Imo not as great as some of the recent dutch teams. No Davids, Van basten, Gullits etc

Total futball it isnt but maybe thats a good thing - It is afterall about winning. Look at Italy and some of the German teams over the years. Not exciting but they win..

Having said that - the Germans are playing incredible attractive football which is a pleasant change. To score 4 goals against three good teams is a huge effort.

It seems to me that the underachievers are Serbia. The first team to beat Germany ever in the first round of a world cup final campaign. Full of young (and old) stars Serbia is a great team. Lets hope that in four years time they can go further.

Great to see the USA do well. Lots of guys playing good football in top European Leagues.

Also impressed by Japan.

England, Italy and France....one to forget!

My pick for the final....Netherlands over Spain 3-2.

(Im often wrong but its good to have a guess)

(football tragic)