Baltic Exchange

The Baltic Exchange is a limited company owned by its shareholders that comprise Member Companies, their Principals and Representatives on the Exchange and Individual Members. The members of the Exchange, both corporations and individuals are engaged in numerous trading spheres. The largest activity conducted by members of the Exchange is in the International Freight Market, with chartering of vessels of all flags by charterers of all trading nations. Other activities carried out by member companies include the sale and purchase of ships, and the chartering and sale and purchase of aircraft. All these activities are international in scope. The majority of members of the Exchange are brokers acting in the various Markets as intermediaries between the principals. All the international trading activities concerned produce foreign exchange and members of the Baltic are major invisible export earners for the UK. Formerly, commodity training of various types was carried out on the Exchange, including Futures Markets trading in agricultural commodities, specifically wheat, barley, potatoes, soya and meat, and the first freight futures market conducted through BIFFEX which was launched in 1985. The Exchange traces its origins to a club established in 1823 representing the users of The Baltic Coffee House which, in turn, started as a coffee house called The Virginia and Maryland until 1744, when it became The Virginia and Baltic. The Baltic merged in 1900 with The London Shipping Exchange and the main Exchange building was subsequently purpose-built, being completed in 1903. The site of 14/20 St. Mary Axe was acquired in 1947 and the building linked to the Exchange was built there in 1955/56. Sir Winston Churchill laid the foundation stone on 2nd March 1955, and H.M. The Queen opened the building on 21st November 1956. Membership of the Exchange is open to corporations registered in the UK who have to be represented by principals resident in the UK for 3 years prior to election. It is also open to individuals in their own name or operating in partnerships. The Exchange is governed by a Board of fifteen Directors, twelve of whom are elected by shareholders and three by members. It has disciplinary powers of censure, suspension and expulsion over members and is responsible for sustaining proper ethical standards in trading. The Exchange derives its income from membership subscriptions and from rents of the offices, which it owns. Members of the Baltic who carry on business as “brokers only” will have signed the Brokers Letter by which they undertake not to trade as principals. Members are required to operate separate bank accounts for clients and must effect appropriate insurance cover against errors and omissions, and Breach of Warranty of Authority. Information is posted on the Official Notice Board for the guidance of Members who are expected to conform with directions made from time to time in the interests of the market as a whole. The Secretary of the Exchange acts as Chief Executive of the organisation, carrying out policy determined by the Directors and being responsible for the administration and organisation of the Exchange and its staff. The motto of the Exchange – “Our Word Our Bond” – symbolizes the importance of ethics in trading. Members need to rely on each other and, in turn, on their principals for many contracts verbally expressed and only subsequently confirmed in writing. The broad basis for ethical trading has long been regarded by The Baltic Exchange trading community as the principle of treating others as one would wish to be treated oneself. The Directors have highlighted, from time to time, practices, which they consider do not accord with Baltic ethics. These include: 1. Organisations operating as Freight Contractors/Freight Speculators offering named tonnage against tenders without the authority of Owners/Disponent Owners. 2. Withholding payment of commissions when due in respect of hire/freight earned and paid. 3. Using information obtained through Members in order to effect business direct with overseas principals or their local brokers and thus bypassing the Exchange. A number of freight indices are generated by the Baltic Exchange, and these, plus real- time market information and access to a substantial database of shipping information can be accessed by members through the Exchange’s internet portal. In spite of the Exchange building having been destroyed by a terrorist bomb in 1992, which effectively put paid to the daily trading activity of the organisation, the spirit and character of the Baltic lives on. In its new home, a short distance along St Mary Axe from its former site, trading on “the floor” is now restricted to a token session weekly. It is nonetheless still a powerful force in shipping circles and in the City of London. Those interested can see the full detail of the Baltic Code and much else besides on the Exchange’s site at www.balticexchange.com.