Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers
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UK maritime looks ahead to 2050

by Richard Scott FICS, member of London & South East Branch Committee, 7 February 2019

In late January 2019 the UK Department for Transport published a comprehensive 336-page report entitled Maritime 2050 – Navigating the Future. This report is based on a study initiated by the government twelve months earlier. It looks at how the UK’s multi-faceted maritime activities - including shipping, ports, services, engineering and leisure marine industries - have been developing, and what action is needed to make progress over the next three decades.

The research and action plan included in the report was prepared with assistance from consultants PA Consulting. An expert panel of senior business, professional and academic people contributed. Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling commented that the new study is “bold and aspirational, cementing our ambition to be a world leading maritime nation long into the future”.

Emphasising the large scale of this review, the executive summary runs to 23 pages of text containing 73 paragraphs identifying action required. Within these paragraphs are extensive and detailed government commitments to provide assistance and help to shape and promote all the UK maritime activities, over the period up to 2050. It is a breathtaking agenda, and arguably a huge challenge, necessitating sustained motivation.

A striking feature of the report is the frequency with which the word ‘government’ (of the UK) occurs - mentioned sixty-one times in the summary alone - and how much the government’s contribution is highlighted. The context in which the word is used is typically a statement of government intention to take some action or provide support to maritime activities. In numerous instances a firm pledge is given about what the government can do or attempt over a period of years. If these promises are fulfilled, it will be regarded as a remarkable achievement.

Of particular interest from the viewpoint of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers is the coverage of maritime education and training. As the report acknowledges “UK maritime business services lead the world”. Specifically mentioned are categories of shipbroking, education, insurance, accounting and law, while other aspects not mentioned include consultancy, information provision and publishing.

The report states that “the UK is justifiably proud of its maritime education system”. An example given is the new London School of Shipping evening classes run by our own Institute. Also revealed is the government’s aim to set up a Maritime Skills Commission to report on existing and future skills needs. One of the medium-term recommendations is that the proposed body will “consider how to ensure professional development plans are built into training programmes across all roles”.         

This recommendation, accompanied by numerous others, and the detailed assessment make the report a worthy successor to previous government-sponsored maritime sector reviews. It follows in the footsteps of the famous 1970 ‘Rochdale Report’ (Committee of Inquiry into Shipping, Report) and the 1990 British Shipping: Challenges and Opportunities. Subsequently in 1998 deputy prime minister John Prescott (who had worked in shipping before becoming a politician) was instrumental in producing British Shipping - Charting a new course.

Maritime 2050 – Navigating the Future available for free, please click.

Callum Beaumont takes An Inside Look At Careers In Shipbroking

Callum Beaumont takes An Inside Look At Careers In Shipbroking

Shipbroking is an exciting, fast-paced career with an international outlook – but what do shipbrokers actually do, what separates good from great, and how do you get started?

What do shipbrokers do?

Around 85% of global trade is carried on ships, transporting raw materials and products to retailers, plants and factories around the world. Cargoes can include finished consumer goods as well as things like coal, metals, foodstuffs, oil, gases and chemicals. 

Shipping brokers connect companies looking to charter or purchase ships with the owners of vessels suited to the task. They manage a sophisticated information network to be able to identify the right combination of ship owners and buyers or charterers, then work to mediate and negotiate between both parties to reach a deal. 

Brokers are experts in their sectors, guiding their clients on market pricing trends, demand and availability, and working through the details of complex (often international) contracts and documentation to overcome potential stumbling blocks in the way of successful transactions. As well as having a deep understanding of the commercial shipping market, they have extensive networks that allow them to move quickly and serve their clients effectively within tight deadlines. 

What makes a great shipbroker?

The best shipbrokers bring together some key skill sets:

-         They are market experts, with a deep understanding of the global shipping industry – its size, structure, key components, regulations and emerging trends.

Most shipbrokers start their days early (usually in the office by 7-8 am) and ensure they’re up to date with the latest market updates on rates, routes, vessels and ports. Leading shipbroking companies have state-of-the-art information platforms online and on big-screen monitors around the office to keep brokers alerted to the latest in breaking news.

-         They are commercially astute, able to match developments and events in the global markets with client needs and find creative solutions to create deals by bringing together buyer and seller needs.

Shipbrokers are great problem-solvers and business people. Where others see news stories, brokers see opportunity – they follow global political events and trade news, have great awareness of international geography (and port locations), and are able to see what impact market movement will have on supply and demand, and act quickly to service the needs these movements create. 

They don’t only operate at a high level – they’re also experts in the fine details of contracts and commercial agreements, working closely with both buyers and sellers in a negotiation to navigate obstacles that could otherwise mean a deal is not reached. 

-         They are great communicators, able to build and maintain relationships quickly with new business contacts and maintain high volumes of correspondence to keep in touch with a large global network.

An average day for most brokers involves high volumes of phone calls, emails, WhatsApp chats, Skype calls and in-person meetings, with communication at the heart of everything a broker does.

The broking industry is built around networking, and most top brokers are highly charismatic with outgoing personalities and a gift for building rapport with new acquaintances quickly. Once developed, they maintain relationships effectively and build themselves a network of buyers and sellers across the global shipping community, knowing who to contact and when to meet client needs and create deals. 

Where do careers in shipbroking start?

There are no defined entry qualifications required for the shipbroking industry, and brokers join from a variety of backgrounds. Some are graduates in fields such as economics, maths, geography or business studies, but others join without a university degree and build their career through trainee schemes. Many people are referred into the industry by friends or family who have connections to the sector, and are attracted by the fast-paced, results-driven nature brokerage work.

Prior work experience with a shipping company is beneficial but not always required. As a minimum, those looking to join the sector should have conducted thorough research and have a basic understanding of how the industry operates. Most hiring companies are keen to see not just raw abilities in a candidate but some deep-seated determination to launch a career within shipbroking, and preparation is a key part of this. 

Shipbroking can be a tough market to break into - the financial incentives for successful brokers are exceptional, and competition for places is always high. 

It often requires tenacity and patience to get your start – in many ways you have to broker your way into becoming a broker!

However, for those with the commitment to learn the industry and work hard to develop their networks and expertise, the rewards can be exceptional and shipbroking can offer a challenging, dynamic and lucrative career path. 

(Printed by kind permission of Callum Beaumont Recruitment Manager Clarkson Platou in February 2019)

Callum Beaumont Recruitment Manager at Clarksons Platou outlines the opportunities in Shipbroking

Callum Beaumont Recruitment Manager at Clarksons Platou outlines the opportunities in Shipbroking

Opportunities in commercial shipbroking exist to utilise all skill sets. Interested in a career in the industry? See which path suits you best.

Shipbroking is a highly sought-after employment sector, with applicants coming from a wide variety of professional and educational backgrounds. 

Though many people equate professional shipbroking primarily with originating and closing deals, complex international shipping organisations offer opportunity in many different forms. 

Shipbroking firms are divided into expert teams, each comprised of specialists working in functions which bring out the best in their natural strengths and talents. 

Within Clarkson’s core shipbroking unit, there are three primary career paths: Operations, Broking and Market Analysis. Each one calls for a unique set of skills and abilities.

Which one best matches your profile?

Ship Operators

What do they do?

Operators in shipbroking are responsible for coordinating and overseeing the successful delivery of cargoes negotiated and agreed by the broking team. Working closely with owners and charterers, they provide regular updates to customers at all stages of the voyage, facilitate documentation and ensure that all partners and suppliers adhere to schedules and regulatory requirements to deliver cargoes securely and on time.  

What skills do they need?

Successful operators are great communicators, in constant contact via phone and email with multiple contacts around the world – owners, charterers, brokers and masters. Project managing between business partners can be stressful work, so operators are skilled in mediating and customer service. 

They are highly responsive, working in time-sensitive conditions and keeping on top of large volumes of correspondence. Since operations is a 24/7 function, members of the team adjust to client needs and often remaining contactable during evenings and weekends.

Organization is key, and operators are experts at establishing workflows and working patterns that allow them to keep in control of a constantly-moving workload. 

It could be right for you if:

You are detail-oriented, have great communication and inter-personal abilities, enjoy fast-paced work, have a good memory and prize your organization skills. 


What do they do?

Shipbrokers are the link between companies looking to charter or purchase ships with the owners of suitable vessels. 

They build and manage complex contact networks across the international shipping community, working to help those who need to transport cargoes and materials locate the right ships at the right price. 

What skills do they need?

As well as being deeply knowledgeable about ships, shipping routes, rates, pricing and other market knowledge, brokers need to be experts in relationship-building and negotiating. 

Top brokers have highly polished sales skills, have a knack for being in touch with the right potential customer at the right time, and are savvy business professionals able to see how political, legal and trade events translate into needs and opportunities across the shipping community. 

It could be right for you if:

You’re a natural networker, have an outgoing personality, establish rapport quickly with new acquaintances, are fascinated by business and market dynamics and have outstanding sales and negotiating skills. 


What do they do?

Analysts collect, analyse and present essential data used by shipbroking companies’ internal teams and external customers. Monitoring shipping and commodities markets, analyst teams manage complex databases of market information, partnering with brokers, commercial teams and clients to provide market analysis and presentations to facilitate decision-making and negotiations. 

What skills do they need?

With data at the heart of their work, top analysts have strong numerical and logic skills, are advanced Microsoft Excel users and are comfortable working with and analysing complex data sets. 

An ability to share and display data compellingly is also vital, with analysts being highly adept with PowerPoint and other tools, often supporting key commercial engagements with data and analysis presentations. 

(It’s not all about IT, either – many analysts at Clarksons do regular filmed interviews in our in-house studio to share their expertise with our team and customers). 

It could be right for you if:

You have strong educational qualifications (typically degree of MSc in Shipping, Economics, History or similar), are highly numerate, have strong logic skills, have exceptional attention to detail and a natural flair for data analysis and visualization. 

(Printed by kind permission of Callum Beaumont Recruitment Manager Clarkson Platou in February 2019)

New UNCTAD Annual Report About the Maritime Scene

by Richard Scott FICS, member of London & South East Branch Committee, 12 October 2018

The 2018 edition of the highly respected Review of Maritime Transport was published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in early October. It is available free of charge on the UNCTAD website (link shown below). As usual, the report comprehensively covers developments in international seaborne trade (chapter 1); structure, ownership and registration of the world fleet (2); freight rates and maritime transport costs (3); ports (4); and legal issues and regulatory developments (5).

Authors of the report have highlighted 7 key trends shaping global maritime transport. One of these, the protectionism threat, is a cause of widespread anxiety. Other prominent trends discussed also are often causes for concern. In the report, all these together are referred to as “challenges and opportunities”.

The other six trends listed are the reshaping influences of digitalization, e-commerce and the implementation of China’s Belt & Road Initiative; excessive newbuilding vessel capacity; consolidation among container service providers; the relationship between container ports and their customers; shipping’s greater dependence on leveraging relevant technological advances to create value; and improving the environmental performance of the industry.

In what is arguably an especially bold view expressed in the report, UNCTAD is very positive about global seaborne trade volume over the next five years. An average 3.8 percent compound annual growth rate is forecast in the 2018 to 2023 period, similar to the improved 4 percent rate achieved last year. This expectation is stated as contingent upon a supportive world economy. But there is no hint in the report that, quite possibly, robust historical seaborne trade growth rates may prove much harder to achieve in the future. 

There is, perhaps wisely, no similar long-term prediction for world merchant ship fleet growth. For now the picture on the ‘supply side’ is providing more encouragement for shipping industry professionals. Fleet growth has moderated, although to a varying extent. As the report points out, last year “the expansion in ship supply capacity was surpassed by faster growth in seaborne trade volumes, altering the market balance and supporting improved freight rates”.

Another topic of interest discussed in a separate section of the UNCTAD report is ‘Assessing Gender Equality Aspects in Shipping’ (pages 38-41). The authors suggest that overcoming the lack of gender equality may be a core element in addressing the shortage of skilled professionals within the sector. However, it is acknowledged that an increasing number of women are entering the shipping industry in all roles, including seafaring and operations, chartering, insurance and law. Also, many more women are participating in maritime studies.