A shipping agent is a person who is responsible for handling the shipments and cargo, keep up with the interests of his or her clients and represent ships owners, charterers or managers. The same tasks can also be carried out by an entire agency rather than just one person depending upon the client and the nature of the cargo. Shipping agents or shipping agencies are also called as port agents or cargo brokers. One of the most important and respected jobs in the marine industry is that of a shipping agent and the following article focusses on the same.
A shipping agent has a very crucial duty of keeping a track of all the transactions that are made at each port. He has local experience and thereby acts as a representative of the owner of the shipping company. He is entrusted with a bunch of tasks like getting local currency, getting the mail, any repairmen in case the ship requires major repairing, refilling the food and water containers and many other such duties. Apart from these, his duties include making sure that the customs have been cleared and everything has been duly paid.
Keeping a shipping agent is mandatory for a shipping company because otherwise, the owner of the shipping company would have to travel the seas, keeping a track of what happens. He would have to visit one port after another in an attempt to solve every common problem. Also, you have to be taking care of the upgrading of components all by yourself. All in all, it is an extremely tedious task.
Some of the responsibilities of a shipping agent include drawing and managing documents for the customs and harbor services, organizing the transport and supply of goods, contacting the shippers and receivers of the cargo, arranging for medical services if required, arranging for necessary repairs in ships, arranging storage bunkers if and when needed, etc.
There are various perks of being a shipping agent. He gets to interact with the shipping companies and their owners all over the world. Since he is a local his interaction with the crew is much more efficient and even, they themselves trust him. Thus, they are able to explain their problems and agitations in a much freer manner than they could have otherwise.
A shipping agent also needs to understand the needs and demands of his client’s needs. It is a wonderful opportunity, for the shipping agents to learn various different things. The salary or the fee that a shipping agent receives from his or her agency is called an agency fee for their services.
All the necessary documents related to the ship are handled by the shipping agent at various ports. There is no way you can neglect your duty for even a moment when you become a shipping agent.
Responsibilities of a Shipping Agent
1) Before the arrival of the ship
Before the arrival of the ship, the shipping agent will receive a nomination from the vessel owner/charterer or the upcoming port call. Once the nomination is received, the shipping agent starts to prepare for the visit of the ship. Amongst other things this procedure will include:
- Berth/Anchorage Spot booking for the vessel with the port authorities (Call announcement).
- Liaison with the various service suppliers (Courier services, Water Taxis, Ship Chandlers, Freshwater Supply, Bunker Suppliers, Transportation services, etc) for scheduling and delivery of goods and services to the vessel.
- Liaison with the various authorities required in providing different services to the vessel (Custom, Authorities, Fire Fighting Services, etc).
- All in all the shipping agent is fully responsible and liable to ensure that ships visiting its port of operations are provided with all required goods and services in a timely, efficient and above all legally respectful manner.
- He takes care of the date and time of the discharge of cargo from the ship. He also arranges for tugs to assist with docking and undocking.
2) Upon arrival
A ship agent advises local customs personnel of the arrival of freight, so the freight can clear customs with dispatch. He arranges for booked services such as longshoremen to unload cargo and for trucks to move containerized freight from the port to the next mode of transportation to the final destination.
If the ship has some due inspections or certifications then he talks to local government authorities to schedule the inspection.
- Reloading: He ensures that after the discharging, the cargo for reloading is present on the port. He verifies the condition of the cargo and the estimated date of arrival of that cargo at the destination. He also checks the condition of transportation and ensures that cargo is loaded to the right ship.
3) After the departure of the ship
He exchanges the results of the inspection with the management company. He also collects any bills due from consignees who received freight and any penalties from the ship management company for damage or late delivery.
Thus, we can see how versatile a shipping agent has to be. He provides value to his recruiter in the truest sense of the word. Most importantly he should be passionate about whatever he is doing. This is indeed a unique job.