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

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Shipbrokers Hedge - dealing with an uncertain future

No - this is not a series of posts around how charterers or shipowners can hedge freight risk. So no I will not be discussing paper markets, long term time charters or COA's (contracts of affreightments).

With all the uncertainty around the world this is a shout out to chartering people round the globe.

How can 'we' best weather the economic, technological, financial and environmental shit storm (pardon the English) that is upon us?

So here is my pick of practical, alternative, income ideas and side hustles perfect for shipbrokers and chartering people across the globe. We are a unique bunch with certain collective attributes that avail us to certain opportunities not necessarily open to others.

I currently invest, do, participate in each of these ideas (just so that you know I would not ask you do anything I wouldn't)


The Virtual Shipbrokers top 15 side hustles and hedge ideas for the globe chartering community

1. Buy Gold!

When the worlds economies are hurting - shipping markets also hurt. Demand is down, vessels are under employed, banks start screaming and our jobs are on the line.

So lets go defensive and BUY GOLD....

'Between Nov. 30, 2007, and June 1, 2009, the S&P 500 index fell 36%. The price of gold, on the other hand, rose 25%. This is the most recent example of a material and prolonged stock downturn, but it's also a particularly dramatic one because, at the time, there were very rea­l concerns about the viability of the global financial system'.

Strategy - 25 percent of your income from now on goes into buying gold. There is no passive income here but you can protect your asset wealth.

Want to know how to buy gold?

Click Here

2. Invest in Supply Chain Tech

Worried that technology is taking over shipping? Worried that big data, robots and geeks in turtle necks will be taking over our jobs? Hedge that risk by being an owner in that future.

Maritime tech is in a funny situation at the moment. There are quite a few fake it till you make mobs who will soon run out of steam in this current economic environment. There will be little appetite for funding and the established, value laden firms will survive. Great article Here

So I suggest broadening the hedge and investing in supply chain solutions, block chain etc

Click here for more information

3. In office pet sitting

When homeowners travel, it opens up an opportunity for pet sitting services to come by and take care of their animals. This is perfect for us! 
When fixtures have dried up for a month, or a a voyage has gone wrong with unforeseen delays - Send out the company chauffeur at 7am to round up the clan and bring these fury creatures into the office. 

It will be great for morale and the benefits to the bottom line are obvious. The more pets the better.
This is now my major form of income...and the dog is now a trainee

More side hacks to come!

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Ted Talk about shipping

Hey everyone the Markets are UPPPPP!!!

Some record gains on the dry bulk side.....lets hope it continues


I stumbled on this and really enjoyed it.

Deserves more views

I fixed a few ships with Doric over the years



Tuesday, June 16, 2020

VS Chartering and Shipbroking Certificate

Hi All

I am running a new course starting in August. We already have 4 keen students and have room for a few more.



Will be fun and you will learn a heap.

If you are interested please send me an email and we can discuss


Best Regards

Friday, June 12, 2020

Who is reading this week? Thanks for stopping by

United States524
South Africa281
United Kingdom193

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Are shipping people happy?

This article is from the digital ship
Worth repeating here
Shipping industry employees are prioritising greater efforts to improve diversity and inclusion, as well as workplace support for training and development - and are increasingly prepared to look for new jobs elsewhere, according to the results of a major annual survey.
The 11th Annual Maritime Employee Survey was conducted earlier this year by Halcyon Recruitment, Diversity Study Group and Coracle Maritime and the results have now been published.
As well as providing revealing results into the opinions of employees ahead of the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the survey also provides valuable insights for employers on the challenges they face when the crisis passes.
When looking at diversity, over half of participants (52 per cent) have been aware of discrimination in the industry but, perhaps surprisingly given the industry’s recent focus on gender balance in shipping, gender discrimination does not top the list. The most commonly cited areas of concern over discrimination were nationality (60 per cent), followed by age (41 per cent), gender (37 per cent) and ethnicity (32 per cent).
Only 60 per cent of employees cite their company culture as being one where they feel supported in the workplace and an overwhelming 90 per cent would like their employer to do more to create a workplace where everyone feels valued and able to contribute.
The survey results suggest a keen appetite for learning and development. 74 Per cent of participants would like to have a defined development plan to help understand what they need to do in order to do their job better. Vessel Operators rank highest (81 per cent), perhaps a contributing factor as to why so many in this segment (60 per cent) are actively looking for new employment.
By contrast, less than half of respondents (48 per cent) have had at least one meaningful conversation about their personal development with their line manager in the six months preceding survey completion.
The survey also revealed that 55 per cent of employees are actively seeking a new role and a further 39 per cent are open to offers. This translates into just 6 per cent of employees being committed to their current role; something that employers would do well to understand better.
76 Per cent of respondents are motivated to take part in training to enhance the skills needed to develop their career but only 45 per cent of respondents work for companies who provide external training and education opportunities, and only 62 per cent are given internal training and education opportunities.
Commenting on the results of the survey, Heidi Heseltine, chief executive officer of Halcyon Recruitment, said:
“The commitment and resilience of shipping employees around the globe has been widely reported and much praised during the COVID-19 crisis. It is widely recognised that an overnight change occurred for most employees, requiring immediate adaptation to remote working and new technologies; both areas where the shipping industry has lagged behind many other industries. Quite rightly, many employers have openly praised our employees and, one could argue, started to recognise them as the most valuable asset of any organisation.
“Our survey was conducted just before COVID-19 turned into a global pandemic. Prior to that, there was growing discussion about creating inclusive working environments, encouraging diversity and how to attract and retain talent. Our research reveals some trends which should worry the industry at any time, but particularly now when we rely more than ever on an engaged, motivated workforce.
“There is a lot of speculation about the long-term impact of the pandemic on our workplaces and working lives, but it is already clear that employees are looking for more than a return to ‘business as usual’. They are also increasingly willing to move to find it. This should be a clear incentive for employers to consider what changes they can make to support their teams, including meaningful action on inclusivity and diversity, greater flexibility and more support for learning and development.”
The survey was conducted in the first quarter of 2020 and attracted over 1,300 responses, with results broken down by business areas, market sector and location. The purpose of the survey is to provide a platform to the men and women that work in the maritime industry and to listen to their perspective on their careers and working environments. Halcyon Recruitment, Diversity Study Group and Coracle Maritime are grateful to everyone who took the time to complete the survey.
The survey report is available on the Halcyon website. To download a copy, visit https://www.halcyonrecruitment.com/employee-survey.pdf. 
Interesting stuff. Be great to get some comments happening especially from the younger brigade. Do you guys agree?

Make a comment (you can do so anonymously)


Sunday, June 7, 2020

6p's of 2020 (Prejudice, protests, pandemics, people, politics and protectionism)

It goes without saying there is currently a lot of pain in the world.

WTF is happening!!!!!!!!!!!

We have a real confluence of events that make the world seem like it is on the edge of something?

In no particular order we have

  • A huge stirring of emotion around the 'black lives matter' events in the USA which has spilled over to all corners of the world. This points to how badly, as human beings' we treat each other and how prejudice, in many forms is still a part of everyday existence for many. If we are honest we know the shipping industry still has issues. We know that 'bias' and 'prejudice' (many time unconscious) is open to anyone who looks. Which nationalities are more likely to do certain jobs, social status, look at the income divide around the globe....etc etc

  • We have a pandemic which has scared the &(&(&^$$##@ out of us and is still wreaking havoc. This will come with very real personal and economic consequences. Are we on the cusp of a depression? How will the next 10 years play out? Will we as nations become more insular and will protectionism increase?

  • We have an unprecedented political divide already present over the last 5 years. Never have we witnessed normal people be so divided into Liberal vs Conservative camps. There seems to be no in between. Friends have been lost, family members divided and controversial political characters make us look deep inside to try and figure out fact from fiction.

  • We have a world where most people acknowledge that we cannot trust the media (whether that be tradition or the new forms) because they too seem to be divided strongly down political lines. Attention grabbing headlines, fake news, the ability of social media to spread the word - all these things have made finding the 'truth' harder than before....

  • We have a seemingly un abating 'Technology revolution' that is infiltrating (for good and bad) all aspects of our work environment. That is quite disconcerting for many who cannot tell with any kind of certainty what the future holds. Jobs are less secure, the rise of the gig economy, robots etc etc

  • We have a physical environment that is changing and becoming more volatile - all at what appears to be at an alarming pace. Will our houses be swallowed up by rising seas? Will our rainforests disappear? Will our air be ok to breath? What will the earth look like in 100 years?

  • We have a young generation saddled with dealing with all of this crap....we call them un motivated, living only for now, un reliable, chasing experiences and not planning for the future....but maybe that is just a smart way of dealing with all of the above...


My thoughts go out to everyone who has lost loves ones, those who continue to face unfair prejudice, those who have lost jobs, those who are suffering confusion, stress and melancholy (or worse), those who feel misunderstood, those who are trying to find the truth amongst the noise, and those saddled with solving the worlds problems.

The skies will clear - I'm sure of that. Lets keep things simple, respect each other and look for ways to be proactive and positive. The world is still a much better place than it was 100 years ago...and I reckon better is to come (FOR EVERYONE).


Thursday, June 4, 2020

The rise of shipbroking platforms Part 2

I have had a great response to my post a few short days ago. 

If you missed it https://lnkd.in/gA-Kkzb

I have messaged with brokers, shipowners and even a couple of high profile owners of chartering platforms - and we have had a very open discussion about where we are at in this space. I am very appreciative to all. Its amazing how many great people we have in our Industry. Its equality encouraging how people are very happy to offer opinions if the subject is broached in the right way.

Part of the reason I run this blog is to connect with people in the industry and have frank conversation about whats really going on.

As one broker friend of the blog put it yesterday

"Your incisive, frank and, oftentimes, cynical (not a dirty word in my book!) observations are a breath of fresh air' - thank you....that is the intention.

Anyway back to the great people in this industry and the furious debate as to what the future holds for shipbrokers. 

Indeed one owner of a platform agreed that problem is uptake, and another agreed saying that very few of the market offerings had the ability to scale up. Interestingly this same entrepreneur believed that the only one with any chance to find the holy grail is actually one of us! (and the biggest one at that). 

Begs the question.....Should we, the wider broking fraternity be less scared of shadowy upstarts and petrified of the 'Ally' in front of us?

Public companies, by there very nature, become slaves to 'shareholder value' where ever that may lead....


I did have a great chance to hop on and surf a number of the platforms. Historically I have used a few of them for quite a long time. 

Here is a list in no particular order - I've probably missed a few (including those run by charterers)

You should check them out

It goes without saying - there are some very impressive service offering amongst this lot. And I mean 'a lot' because as you can see the space is becoming quite crowded. 

The technology definitely makes everyones work just that little bit easier and that little bit faster. Efficiency and speed....good mottos to live by. I also like the trade information, the efficient routing programs, live bunker updates etc etc

It does leave some obvious questions though...

If everyone is using this stuff where is the advantage? I think the new normal is keeping up rather than pulling away...and again there may be an argument that in an increasingly efficient market  with big data maybe its just one side of the equation that needs this....Why do both sides need to be told the same thing?

Some simple freight trading observations. If you are a shipowner with a ship 'deemed' to be in the best position for a cargo is this good news or bad news? And vice versa is a charterer is stuck with no ships showing upon the radar (except one) is this good news or bad news - from a negotiation perspective? 

The other interesting development is the auction system being pushed around by some heavy weight charterers. 

I have an interesting story to tell. I was actually part of one of the first cargo auctions of this type many moons ago. I think it was probably 2004. Not only was I part of the auction I won the auction on behalf of the shipowner I was working for at the time. 

The cargo was small - maybe 10,000/5 pct. 

The charterers went to great efforts to set up the auction and it was a reverse auction.....so the last bid won...the time limit was 30minutes.

So there we were - watching the screens and it was exciting. Interestingly thought the 10 or so shipowners/operators who took part actually kept bids very high...for the first 28 minutes that is....

Finally with seconds remaining I put in a knock out bid (compared to the others) and won the auction. 

And we (as shipowners) were very happy because we got a much better price than we thought....

The auction worked....thats for sure...and not for the charterer. They stopped with the auction system soon after. 

I wonder if auctions become the 'in thing' if shrewd shipowners in major markets will have an 'informal' understanding about turf and territory.....

You never know

Interesting times

Shipbroker (most of the time!)

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

The continued rise of chartering platforms

In 2009 (eleven years ago can you believe that!) on this blog I wrote a number of articles about the potential rise of shipbroking/chartering platforms and whether in years to come that will render the role of a shipbroker obsolete. At the time we (the bulk shipping industry) were collectively just starting to re emerge out of the GFC that rocked the worlds economies.

Check my old posts here


So Here we are on 2020, during a bigger challenge than the GFC, and its time to revisit this space.

And yes the fight for the holy grail (maritime tech) is alive and well.

So what do we have?

1. We have a shipbroking market that seems a little resigned to the fact that this type of technology is slowly but surely making inroads. The strong, those with deep intrenched relationships, and with power to influence are increasingly being forced to use that power to remind others that 'we' are not going away. The rest of us are looking on watching helplessly like small puppies...(that analogy could be little too far but you know what I mean)

2. We have a large chunk of cargo interests (large mining companies for example) who since the GFC 12 years ago no longer want to 'play' the market. They have become highly risk averse, have hired 'logistics' professionals to carry out spot contracts, and see merit in saving 1.25 pct commission by either going direct or putting cargoes onto a trading platform - some of which they own and operate themselves.

3. We have a few well connected entrepreneurs who continue to try and nudge their platforms towards wider market acceptance. They are finding though that just about all of these entrepreneurs come with baggage - i.e. are they really independent, are they really offering value and currently take up is still very small?

4. We have a tidal wave of tech geniuses pushing their wares. They are so convincing that even those with real or legitimate questions around 'value' are made to feel like luddites for not embracing the next big thing.

5. We have shipowners (interestingly the ones who pay the commissions) who are embracing technology as a way to improve fleet efficiencies, manage risk and predict the future. Shipowners are being increasingly asked to 'look after' preferred brokers to preserve relationships and sometimes to keep a gap between them and the client.

6. And we have freight traders who are doing what they always do, sniffing around in the gaps looking for margins in a shipping market that is volatile. Counter party risk, market risk, currency risk - the list goes on. The irony here is that traders thrive on risk.......especially those on bonus schemes.


So what does this all mean for shipbrokers? I am here to present a few reasons why we should not 'write off' shipbroking too fast.

1. Ship broking is the worlds second oldest profession and that alone means it must be with saving.

(Any resemblance to the world oldest profession is purely coincidental - ok thats an old joke but its been years since I've used it..)

2. Shipping is slow

Lets strip shipping back to its most basic elements. That is the movement of bulk goods over long distances. This takes time......and that hasn't changed. So my question to principals is WHAT IS THE RUSH?

Much of the new technology is about efficiency and speed but why do we need to be that much faster when the actual execution is slow? Fixing a ship in 20 minutes will make virtually no difference to any kind of economy than fixing in 2 days. The ship will still most likely need to finish discharging from the previous employment and then ballast to a load port - plenty of time!

So whats the rush? We actually have spare time. I used to like updating vessels positions because it gave me a menial task to to rather than sit and worry...(off course we factor in finding deals too)


3. Efficiencies in the market. I actually believe that the charter markets have always been very efficient. What I mean is that through a normal negotiation process the markets will most of the time match the right ship for the right cargo. Thats why we run a voyage calculation. We look at the numbers and we compare one ships particulars to other competing ships. Thats why Cargo interests should cover many brokers and many shipowners just to make sure no ship slips through the process.

So efficiency was happening anyway (Trust me I have an economics degree!)

4. Now lets talk about the rise of the principal (on both sides) who is actively looking to save on commissions.

Picture this - the accountants get together (from a mining company for example) and say 'even though we don't pay the commissions we are paying for it in the freight rate'. So they work backwards and figure out how much commission has been paid by the shipowner 'on the back' of their cargoes and then rationalise that they can save money in the long run.

Fair enough - but not too fast........lets look at 'mark to market'.

Can they really be sure that the savings they assume they are making (in having a direct relationship with shipowners) is actually playing out in the freight rates?

Maybe, just maybe, the shipowners is 'over the moon' that the charterer wants to come direct. A  consequence (like any good capitalist) is that the shipowner now sees an opening to raise their freight prices?

I was a shipowner so I know! Maybe not in the first few cargoes (keep the rates low) but after a relationship is formed shipowners would be licking their lips...at a comfortable charterer who now presumes they are getting a cheaper rate (without paying commission).

(Moral If you are a charterer having a smart shipbroker on your side may in fact SAVE YOU MONEY

And finally, maybe (just maybe) the large charterers are under investing in the shipping function and presume that fixing a ship is like booking a container.

How much are they leaving on the table by being less than savvy, by hiring logisticians instead of chartering experts?

How much are they leaving on the table not having a shrewd broker guide them?

Wow - I'm tired writing all that.....


So to finish up - we shipbrokers need to do a better job at explaining our value. A value that benefits all parties in a shipping transaction..

Charge your glasses to another 1000 years

Hip Hip........Hooray!