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

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Did you know shipbroking is a financial service?

Hi everyone 

To those of us in the industry we don't often answer the question

"What does a shipbroker do?"


"We offer a financial service to shipowners and cargoes charterers' - Note:Wikipedia's defines ship broking as a financial service.

More likely we answer with ideas around 

  • Matching counter parties (thousands of ships / thousands of cargoes)
  • Acting as an unbiased intermediary
  • Negotiation expert
  • Providing market advice 
  • Expert technical advice (certainly in the area of SNP)
  • Expertise in the area of contracts and legal matters

Whats interesting about those layman definitions is that in essence they deal with 'money', often in large sums, and I guess this fulfils some definition of a financial service

From the net - 'Financial Services is also the term used to describe organizations that deal with the management of money'.

I do however think that this doesn't adequately (not by a long shot) cover the role of shipbrokers in the wider market. 

BUT.............and there is an increasingly 'big BUT' (Don't google that)

Are shipbrokers or at least the larger savvy ones - morphing into real bonafide financial services companies?

There is no huge news here because players like Clarkson's and Ifchor have large Financial services divisions. In fact for 30 years various shipping companies (mostly in Scandinavia) and on the sale and purchase side of things have helped facilitate financing in some form or another. 

To a wider extent this is just part of a global movement where innovation led by fintechs (computer programs that enable banking) mean that non-financial companies can now offer financial products.

Why does this work? Non-financial firms (like shipbrokers, real estate agents, health care providers, Universities etc) – have myriad unique assets, notably a large customer base, unique insights, and crucially, trusted relationships. 

Capitalizing on these, some shipbrokers have realised they can offer financial products that help the client and at the same time compliment there core business's.

In a world where shipbrokers are constantly trying to justify value in the market - have these big buys (like Clarkson's and Ifchor) found a way to offer value to customers, stay ahead of the pack and keep growing exponentially. 

Not all shipbrokers can offer financial products - this is obvious. Most shipbroking firms are 1-5 people shops with limited asset base. Is this a problem?

Does this have implications for smaller shops? 

Its a bit like asking what business is McDonalds in? Most people say hamburgers.....those in the know say 'real estate'. 

20 years time. What business is Clarkson's in? Shipbroking (or ................is it banking?)


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Hows your brand?

The current state of the world, more than ever, shipbrokers, freight traders, shipowners, and charterers need to assess their own personal brand.

And here I do not mean the brand of the business you work for. I mean your own personal private brand.

We can argue until the cows come home about teamwork and loyalty (both very important aspects of being a great citizen) but the truth is in times like this its your own personal brand that can make the difference between having a job and not...

And you know what - growing your own personal brand is becoming increasingly difficult in a shipping world that values loyalty, conformity and less risk. Ill explain more...

With consolidation happening everywhere in most industries what I am noticing is that those most comfortable within organisations have a strong persona brand. Ie - the company needs them....

This could be for any number of reasons but most likely

1. They could be a huge revenue generator
2. They have very close client relationships
3. They are just awesome at what they do
4. They have become internally indispensable (the boss can't function or they help with internal politics)

Case in point: One shipping executive I know feels fairly comfortable (rightly so) because of the strong bonds he has created over many years in a particular region of the world. He gets inside word on new business, often gets non market repeat business and for a shipowner or freight trader this is very valuable (regardless if the cargoes make money or not).

And you know what - listen up those over 40 years old. This will become even more important as you become an elder statesman.

In my books and blog click here I talk a lot about how to build your own brand in the shipping world. Like any good business you personally should be looking to secure long term profitable relationships. You too should be constantly evolving and learning new things.

Any smart business build walls around itself - protecting itself from the ups and downs of the market.
The irony here is part of that is not letting individual brokers get too powerful.

So how can you build your own brand in an ethical way? This requires an interesting mindset for any good loyal employee. Yes trust in the business but also watch and remain detached to some extent. Naivety won't pay the bills.

And lets be clear - I am not out to undermine great business's. There is nothing better in the world than finding somewhere to work that you love.

As a business owner myself - I am completely comfortable with this. Part of a being a great business is keeping staff happy. It is my experience that staff will stay for ever if they are given the opportunity to be rewarded fairly and have the opportunity to grow as people and professionally. Im not sure shipping has always been great at that.

How is your own brand?

(tackling the difficult topics)

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Shipbroker Performance and wellness Hack

Attention Shipbrokers (a generic term covering all chartering people)

I have an activity that will change your life!

This one is a ripper because for me it ticks a lot of boxes. Firstly - I am a shipping geek. This means I like big ships.

Most summers I rent the same eco friendly tiny house house in Gibraltar, put on my ships captain hat, wheel out a deck chair and with binoculars in hand (18 hours per day) I watch bulk carriers enter and leave the channel.

I like watching them in the morning, in the afternoon and evening because the light is different.

I make sure I have a freezer full of organic chicken wings, bbq sauce and Eastern European beer. I might take a probiotic to help with my stomach.

Im sitting at the tip - you need to squint

So with shipping geek credentials verified I have a hobby that is 'next level'. This one we can do from our own homes (tick), this one we get to actually perform a physical function instead of tapping on a computer (tick), this one has a meditative element important for the wondering mind of chartering people everywhere (wellness tick), and this one we can do 'even' while negotiating (improve performance - bloody big tick).


Not big ships - small ships. Some of you may already be converts.

These guys are the best in the business Premiership models

Entry level

As a lockdown activity this is a no brainer. Buy an elite model and you will be at it for months - maybe years..

If you are still an office goer - think of this scenario. Big day at work, 9 pm in the evening, you are sick of watching tv, Netflix, trolling the Net, speaking to your loved ones....and..... they may in fact be sick of talking to you (been there!). Plus you may be working on a deal.

Your mind cannot switch off. Go to the liquor cabinet poor a glass of Red (or a lemon lime and bitters) and slowly move toward your home office.....close the door (lock if necessary). Laid out in front of you is an amazing labour of love. A 'slow hobby' to get you back on track.


I have done an extensive search (for myself) and even contacted a few for a chat.

These guys have the best product. High variety, High quality models kits.

I had a chat to the owner Rashid Lalloo who is a super nice guy. The business itself has a great story and after becoming interested I found this press release https://www.pr.com/press-release/785529. Well done to them.

Send Rashid an email rashid@premiershipmodels.com and if you tell him 'the virtual shipbroker sent you' - he will look after you. I told him ship chartering people always look for deals..its in our DNA


Happy Living / Happy Fixing
(ps - leave a message and say hello)

Friday, May 22, 2020

Bulk shipping is like the EPL

Bulk shipping seems to me to be a lot like the EPL (English Premier League football).

Long time readers of the blog will know my love for sport. Golf (9 handicap), skiing, tennis, more recently basketball and football all play a part in my enjoyment of life. I like playing them, watching them and like my relationship with shipping, I love analysing them.

So the EPL is still the number one league in the world. Most money, many of the worlds top players, 3 or 4 of the worlds top 10 clubs, closely followed by Spain, Germany, France and Italy.

But the truth is I find watching the EPL quite boring. There is no doubt regarding the skill and level of overall expertise on show but all this in some weird way has managed to take the character out of the game.

Here is the irony - all the technology (stats revolution), sports science, diet, MBA style management etc designed to give clubs an edge has in fact brought them closer together. All top clubs now spend millions on these same elements.

So no longer are those things necessary to get an edge they are now necessary just to keep up!

So on the field we see some interesting things. We see almost perfect football. Strong, fast athletes who are so well drilled into team tactics that any mistake sticks out like a sore thumb...

The precision is something to watch. Some of the greatest players virtually never make a mistake. First touch is perfect, pass hits the mark, and through some system or another the ball makes its way up the pitch and a goal is scored (hopefully).

But off course teams are now equally as well drilled in defence.

The game now seems like a war of attrition rather than a thing of beauty. So now I like watching the championship (the league below the EPL) because I see things that are unexpected - less than perfect.

So how is this like shipping? Well the last 10 years (and certainly the last 5) we have see the rapid expansion of technology (big data) trying to gain traction in the industry. We also have so many more MBA education, highly credential boffins running the big companies these days.

Data is analysed in every direction, trade routes, commodity markets - even the share market is now being compared to the shipping markets just to see who can get an edge.

The problem from my perspective is when you combine this amazing information (some great people in marine Tech no doubt) with almost unlimited access via so many media channels - then where is the advantage? The technology guys need to make a buck so unless someone pays millions for exclusivity then others are getting the same information.

Currently I can follow 20 companies on 'linkedin' who give me free technical market information - but so can everyone else. 

I can also pay a subscription to a private company who will have disseminated the market in 30 different ways - but so can everyone else

I can rely on my broker to send me market reports - but so can everyone else.

And here is the interesting kicker - the market has now factored that 'intelligence' in.

So efficient market analysis is now part of the actual market. The market is now being influenced by 'risk' professionals more than ever before.

So in my mind the result is a little bit boring. It means that you could argue there is little advantage listening to anyone and just get on with your job and 'face the market'. You might just save thousands of dollars in consultancy fees.

If you are shipowner - just buy low (ships that is), watch your cash, diversify with long term and short term charters and play with the futures market.

If you are a charterer - Buy low (freight), hedge where you can, and if you feel like taking on some risk then keep your exposure open.

If you are broker - I do know that the technology is helping speed up processes which is great. Butt the bottom line is the same. Its all about relationships.

That leaves a whole big space for freight traders (ship operators) - historically the guys willing to play the game and take on most of that risk. These guys should be spending more on tech then others I would think - and talking to those in the know this is the growth area.

Whats the moral? Well in the EPL we love watching the stars. The ones that can dribble and that can change a game of their own feet and their own willpower. That will never change and these guys earn the big bucks deservedly. You also get the feeling that those very top guys probably go into dream mode when the 'experts' come in.

Its difficult to see the 'gaps' when everyone toes the line. The smartest in the room will always find a way.

Trust your instincts and believe in yourself.

Enjoy the weekend

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Bulk shipping - strange times indeed

Yes it is a strange time in international shipping. Its a strange time in the world. Globalisation being questioned, technology taking over (too much information - not enough good information), pandemics, locust plagues, oil wars, massive political divides all over the world, no sport, no tinder - the list goes on...

If bulk shipping was a person they would likely be diagnosed as having split personality disorder and probably committed to a loony asylum (thats not politically correct - yes I know). The tanker market is artificially pushed to crazy levels due to an oil war (although that market is changing rapidly), the cruise market decimated due to corona (will it ever come back to previous levels?) and a dry bulk market where its hard to figure out how many shipowners and operators are going to survive.

Sure the last week or so there are good signs out of China but my sense is we are looking for anything to be optimistic about. China doesn't operate in a bubble and yes their domestic market is huge but they rely on western consumers to buy their stuff. From a supply perspective it appears that political tensions with Australia and other western countries means that China are flexing their muscles and playing hardball on coal imports and grain shipments.

That doesn't come without a cost on both sides of the spectrum. There is a reason trade historically flows between nations and mostly it down to pure economics. Once we mess around and throw politics into the equation then resources don't necessarily get placed where they should.

So where does that leave the shipping industry coming to the end of the financial year? Its bonus time people and there will be have and have nots. The tanker community will probably be happy but nervous. Any shipping companies (brokers, shipowners etc) that have diversified business's across all major markets will also be ok.

But some are struggling and the whispers are only getting louder.

What can we do as companies and individuals but hustle like we always do. Although the above is true how much has really changed?

Focus on

  • Quality
  • Improvement (continuous learning)
  • Relationships (help each other out) 
  • Adaptability
  • Flexibility
  • Stay positive


Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Dry cargo voyage estimation tutorial now available

Hi All

The software is currently being upgraded (and therefore not available) but for a limited time you can purchase the amazing 'tutorial booklet' which is easily applicable for any dry cargo voyage estimation software.

So any current shipbrokers, charterers or shipowners with access to software you should think about adding my tutorial to your knowledge base

It is much more than a simple - how to do - tutorial. It is a 80 page practical lesson on valuable aspects of freight trading.

Its the only tutorial out there that speaks in 4 different voices...The broker, the charterer the shipowner and the freight trader

Plus I explain

  • How to find out port da's including a pro forma email to agents
  • How to calculate cargo intake for a bulk carrier
  • How to read market reports 
  • Difficult to understand concepts like Demurrage, Ballast Bonus, DOP vs APS Delivery, Backhaul vs Fronthaul plus more

This course would cost USD 2k to have someone explain this to you...

And mine is so cheap lah! (Less than 10 Euro for now anyway)

click here

And don't tell your colleagues

get an edge!

Happy fixing

VS (25 years experience as a shipowner, freight trader, charterers in house freight department and shipbroker)

Monday, May 18, 2020

Multiple choice test - on being a good shipbroker

Watch the video and answer the following question 

Bob who seems like a nice chap says that 'Teamwork' is a vital part of Clarkson's business

Bob is 

A) Quite correct - teamwork, lifting each other up is vital in shipbroking. Plus Clarkson's is a big reputable brand and the broker should be happy that the brand itself brings in much of the business. 

B) emphasising teamwork because Clarksons (insert any big shop) are sick and tired of brokers leaving and taking big clients with them. Never let one broker get too close! 

(This despite the fact just about every brokerage shop started out at some point by a rogue broker p......g off with a big client).

C) Less likely to discuss teamwork with older brokers (same may even be in charge!) who if forced to share the spoils with a junior will throw a tantrum and get up and leave (maybe taking the desk with them.....not the physical desk but the close colleagues all from the same team)

D) All of the above

Send me your answer

(On what you don't learn from 'most' books)

BTW - anyone who sends me an email, buys a book etc etc your privacy is paramount. Your business is none of mine...and I never publish any names unless with prior consent. 

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Less corona more glamour...

Famous Shipbrokers??

Roger Moore was my favourite....I know that is controversial 

Ok I need this verified - one part at least...

It has been rumoured (and mentioned more recently) that the inspiration for the James Bond character   was infact an ex Clarkson's employee - a gent by the name of Sandy Glen...

Sure he was part owner of Clarkson's 'holiday' division (geez they should bring that back post pandemic) but lets not the truth get in the way of a good story. And his father Pop Glen was a shipowner...so kudos there.

Now the other one is Jason Bourne. And this is where I need your help. I swear that when watching one of the Bourne series I remember his character saying something in a conversation that went some like this

Hot woman: "When you meet my mother be careful what you say". "What job should I say you do?"
JB: After 5 seconds of pondering says "tell her I'm a shipbroker'.

Now is this true or have I completely made that up. I've been running with this story (to friends and family) for a very long time so I hope I'm right..

Who can provide evidence? A clip would be perfect....

Reply in this post or send me a private email at virtualshipbroker@yahoo.com

Stay Safe

What is a shipbroker?

I like this....

Although Im not sure shipbrokers help send the items he mentions...

Unless he helps sell or charter a container ship that eventually sends shoes and laptops...

But good fun nonetheless...

Stay well