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

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"About Shipbroking Ltd" - real or a interesting experiment?

An Interesting development in the world of Shipbroking? Or just another entrepreneurial idea. I usually wouldn't touch this topic but a few people have contacted me asking my advice regarding the terms and conditions (if you can call them that) for a proposed new shipbroking company intent on world domination. They are currently advertising in tradewinds and they go by the name of "About Shipbroking Ltd"

here is the crux of the idea / proposal

(what they are sending potential employees by email without proper vetting)

1. They are looking to revolutionise shipbroking
2. They intend to be the largest shipbroker in the world across all markets
3. There is no salaries
4. You do all the work locally but hand over between 15-30 pct of commission to the parent company
5. In return they let you use their brand name and use their computer systems and back up staff
6. They domicield in the shipping tax haven of Greece
7. No mention of company structure or set up of management and how much control they do or do not exert
8. Bonus and share shcemes that reward loyalty and performance
9. They plan to hit the gound running 1st May 2012

This section is quite interesting


Subject to the supervision and pursuant to the orders, advice, and direction of employer, employee shall perform such duties as are customarily performed by one holding such position in other businesses or enterprises of the same or similar nature as that engaged in by employer.

Duties to be split as follows:

Employer                                                Employee

Position database update.                       Chartering or S&P.
Post fixture service.
C/P issuing.
Phone transfers.

Each party to provide and pay for the following:

Employer                                                                           Employee

Office in Greece.                                                               Local office (or work from home).
Fast internet connection in Greece.                                    Fast internet connection locally.
System server in Greece.                                                     Laptop or PC.
Phone expenses in Greece.                                                  Phone expenses locally (SKYPE).
Shipbroking software.                                                        Local taxes on compensation.
Travel and representation expenses                                     Pensions and health insurance.
for shipbroker dinners or big events                                   Travel and representation
representing the company, always                                      expenses for local or own client visits
subject to management approval.

If these above main terms involved can be of your interest, then please indicate your firm interest latest ........... 2012 in order that our new appointed managing director then can email you the full contract terms.

Best regards
Torben Jensen
Board member About Shipbroking LTD


So my read on this situation is as follows

A few shipping entrepreneurs with an idea and some cash have the following idea which for the boss's means very little ongoing work but the promise of passive cashflow moving forward.

1. Set up an office in the tax free haven of Greece
2. Employ 3 or 4 admin staff, rent a nice but small office
3. Invest in a fairly good shipbroker software package, servers etc
4. Convince brokers that there is a benefit from using said companies name, share info resources and back office staff
5. The tempting bit is there is not investment needed
6. The less than interesting bit is that brokers are basically working for commission only and if they do fix they need to give about shipbroker between 10 and 30 percent
7. Shipbrokers pretty much on their own in terms of cost, travel, training etc.

Look - my first impression is that this idea is quite interesting but then i realised a few things

1. this is pretty much a commission only deal where you keep most of it but you also do most of the work

2. How will the parent company split geographic and market regions. What if I choose say Singapore and another 10 people also want Singapore?

3. How will the standard of service / ethics / training be monitored? Companies run on reputations. If anyone can become a rep in an area how can i be sure the companies reputation will not be sullied and will not effect my business?

4. How will these guys in head office stop internal competition. Anyone in the markets should ask Platou or Clarksons or SSY how easy it is to get keep nice relationships between their own offices? This is not easy as they all compete for a limited amount of business...

5. A problem for About Shipbrokers is how do they stop brokers fixing outside their computer platform ie they use the About Shipbroker name to market their business and then when a lucrative client comes along they set up a separate email system and fix without About Shipbrokers being aware?

6. How does about shipbrokers stop brokers taking all the info, all the big clients and just leave when it suits them?

7. Who are "About Shipbrokers"? The name Torben Jensen is a famous shipping name but who are the backers and the other board members? Is this the Armada, clipper Torben or someone else??

There are many more questions here....the reason i know these issues is because I've thought about starting something similar under the VS banner but came to realise that the idea would be out of control pretty quickly.

Leading shipbrokers work very hard to guard reputations and create business's. They also reward employees with proper salaries not commission only deals. If you really want autonomy start your own business and keep all the spoils

The idea imo is a little bit too clever and lacks substance.

......thats my take anyway - Maybe we should call them ABOUT FACE SHIPBROKING...speak to the hand!


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Interesting dialogue from another thread

This reader has hit a minor jackpot. Only confirms to me that there is lots of scope for people to start shipbroking business's. But one needs to do it properly. Not only does a shipbroker need to be professional and uphold industry standards, a new shipbroker needs to know how to survive and prosper. One or two bad mistakes and you will end up back on a ship (at a bank, at McDonalds or wherever you worked pre shipbroker)

AnonymousFeb 20, 2012 12:33 PM

Hi VS... excellent blog

I want to confirm whether the ship broker should gets his commission only from the ship owners or from cargo owners as well.. pls clarify


 The Virtual ShipbrokerFeb 20, 2012 01:04 PM


Shipowners pay commission. It is the shipowners cost..

BUT you can ask charterers to deduct the commission from hire payment (payment they make to shipowners) and the chargterers remit the funds to the broker instead...

does this make sense?


 AnonymousFeb 20, 2012 11:08 PM

Hi VS... thank you so much for your reply. I'm a master mariner,and i have my relative working for a cargo owner. They wanted to hire a ship for their goods and I helped them to find a ship owner. The ship owner promised me a 1.25% commission because I'm the middle man. Do I call myself as a ship broker??? Should i open a new company????? What are the risks involved as a ship broker. I'm doing this to this help my relative and I don't want to get into trouble.


 The Virtual ShipbrokerFeb 21, 2012 12:26 AM

Congratulations on finding yourself in the middle of a lucrative deal. And yes you got it....you are now a shipbroker!

First point of call. Buy my books...all 3 - im not kidding. And then once you have read them then we can talk. Shipbroking is lucrative but risky especially if you dont understand what you are doing. I consult many companies exactly like what you may be able to start now, and help them (at very little cost) create amazing business's. Well done, good luck and keep in touch!


End story

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Shipbroker and Chartering Employment and Salary update

And its not all bad news!

Below is the latest from one of the world premier shipping placement agencies. They do an impressive half yearly report which is just in. Thanks Faststream!

check out their website at www.faststream.com

Key points for employment

  • the short term outlook for 2012 looks positive
  • half of farsteams shipping clients are looking at hiring new talent over the next 12 months
  • Shipowners in particular are on the lookout for new staff - the biggest demand is for vessel operations and support stafffor all types of vessels
  • The weakening of valuation and the unavailability of credit has meant that private money is being sought by more and more shipping companies. Large and small funds are stepping up to the plate.
  • A number of banks, funds, other financial instutions are outsourcing their technical managment of vessel functions but are keeping the commercial roles in-house. Financial institutions are very particular about who they take on are are prepared to pay well and offer great packages to entice the best.
  • The rise in non traditional shipowning is seeing an increase in work for shipmanagement companies who can cover this technical / knowledge and resourse gap.


  • In Asia support staff (operation, postfixture) are hard to find and salaries remain bouyant and infact are growing. Salaries for commercial shipping execustives in Singapore in particular are soft and in many cases have retreated to 2007-2008 levels (which is still pretty good...but their is a trend)
  • Singapore continues to dominate the Asian scene..
  • In the Americas the hiring freeze is beginning to thaw. There is a healthy outlook for mid tier commercial shipping people especially in the Northeast and GOM areas. Central and South American markets are expanding as shipowners and brokers look to take advantage of this growing market.
  • Europe is steady. The good news is that although most european companies are looking to Asia and Latin America for expansion, they are not looking at reducing their Eurocentic operations.

So overall Faststream are painting a positive picture despite the market gloom. There is merit here for sure. Market shocks like the one we are currently having, can be a time of renewal and growth.

Whats also interesting is the insight to the structural changes going on in shipping.

See its not all bad news! As long as we have a sun rise (with dolphins) there is opportunity!

The Virtual Shipbroker

Monday, February 13, 2012

Negative Freight Rates - Another great question

Dear VS,
Thanks your nice web site and professional approach.
The day has come when the first ship has been fixed with the negative figure hire rate (Charterers are Glencore, Owners are GMI, rate -2,000 usd/day).
The fixture with 0 hire rate has been concluded earlier already (Norden was the Charterer).
Can I have your thoughts about brokerage commission payments?
Does that mean that Charterers should pay the broker instead of the Owners?
Percentage from the value of daily bunker consumption?
Or may be the broker (since always taking part of Shipowner hire rate) should pay something to Charterers on top?

Thanks question. Truth is there has been quite a few zero freight rate fixtures over the last year or so and going into negative territory doesnt surprise me. Crazy stuff hey!

As a shipbroker if you are facing negative freight rates, no freight rates or even very very very low freight rates i suggest you negotiate a lump sum commission from the very beginning of the negotiation. You cannot work for free. So when you send out the first counter speak to the shipowners and state how much you want. Ie USD 5,000 bucks...

That should do it!


From the open questions thread - just in

New BrokerFeb 13, 2012 12:19 AM

Dear VS,

I am in the process of fixing a vessel for a first time charterer. The operator has asked for 20% freight advance directly to his account. Charterer however not very comfortable to remit payment directly and wants me to convince the operator to accept BG or Escrow account. Operator says that owner will not accept Escrow and that he can lock the vessel only after getting the deposit. How do I satisfy both the parties.


The Virtual ShipbrokerFeb 13, 2012 02:21 AM

Good question new broker.

In these crazy financial times your example is symptomatic.

Without knowing who they are its difficult for me to give good advice. I can make some generalisations though.

There must be a reason owners are asking for 20pct in advance? They probably scared about the financials of the charterer. Why are charterers refusing? What difference does paying into an escrow or straight into the bank account make to them? Unless offcourse the operator themselves are also financially insecure?

IMO an escrow should be used for other purposes. Payment of freight upfront is becoming more and more prevalent. An escrow is better used if for instance there is an amount that may eventually be disputed. In your example this is not infact the case.

So my advice is to work on the charterer. Make sure the agreement states that upfront payment doesnot take place until the ship actually delivers. Sending money to a shipowners bank account without a delivered ship is not a good idea!

At the end of the day if the charterer isnt happy then he can find another ship and the ship owner aint happy he can find another charterer...


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Some good news for a shipowner close to the edge!

Very recent press release (see below)

In short it shows the banks willingness to look for solutions in todays current climate. It also shows that insolvent shipowners can somehow provide some assurances to clients that their ships will not be arrested and detained anytime soon....(a charterers biggest fear when dealing with a financially insecure shipowner)

I do wonder whether TBS are one of the lucky ones in some respect and whether there will be as much willingness to help as this shipping downturn plays out over the next few years.

It states


Notably, the Company has, subject to court approval, obtained debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing of $42.8 million to fund operations during the Chapter 11 cases. This financing is provided entirely by the  Company’s existing lenders, including Bank of America, DVB Bank, Toronto Dominion Bank and Credit Suisse. Under the Plan, the DIP financing claims and pre-petition secured debt are to be restructured so as to provide new liquidity, extended maturity dates and other terms sufficient to permit the new entity's successful emergence from Chapter 11 and future viability.

“We are very pleased that our banks are supportive of the steps we have taken to improve our balance
sheet and, through it, the long-term health of our Company,” said Joseph E. Royce, Chairman, Chief
Executive Officer and President. “As a result of the restructuring, we should be positioned to be a
financially sound competitor in our global markets. We have taken steps to diminish the impact of this
process on our vendors, customers and employees, and we intend to move forward as expeditiously as
possible to complete the restructuring.

More importantly, I want to emphasize that this agreement ensures that our vessels will not be arrested and cargo will get to its destination as scheduled.”

Information about the restructuring is available at the Company’s website www.tbsship.com, or via the Company’s restructuring information line at (888) 418-5566 or (216) 370-3528 (from outside the US).

About TBS International plc

TBS provides worldwide shipping solutions to a diverse client base of industrial shippers through its Five Star Service: ocean transportation, projects, operations, port services and strategic planning. The TBS shipping network operates liner, parcel and dry bulk services, supported by a fleet of multipurpose tweendeckers and handysize/handymax bulk carriers. TBS has developed its franchise around key trade routes between Latin America and China, Japan and South Korea, as well as select ports in North Africa, Africa, the Caribbean and the Middle East. Visit our website at www.tbsship.com.


Soon i will find report on some good news where people are still making bundles of cash! Its not all bad people.........