Shipbrokers are indeed necessary if they act as a fast and efficient database, not as a mere recycling post-box.
Shipbrokers facilitate negotiations at arm’s length, thereby helping their principals from being perceived by the market as being ‘desperate’, which would inevitably drive the market away from them. In other words, if a shipowner makes 200 telephone calls to potential charterers, who of course discuss the market amongst themselves, they will collectively assume that that owner needs to fix a cargo very soon, therefore the charterers will negotiate the freight much lower than if the owner had allowed a broker to place the vessel in the market place and make a few discreet phone calls.
Shipbrokers’ specialist knowledge could save the principal both time (which is equal to money) and disputes, possibly otherwise leading to an arbitration or a court case.
Beware the ‘F & F shipbroker’, who simply wishes to Fix a cargo or a ship and then Forget about any Post Fixture (or after sales) service.
It is always preferable to choose a broker who is qualified as a Member or a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Shipshipbrokers, although unfortunately it is not yet compulsory within the profession to take ICS exams.
Port agents can be qualified shipbrokers too, thereby extending their knowledge and giving a broader service to their clients.