Post-Fixture

The size of a shipbroker’s organisation depends on the number of clients they service, be they charterers, operators or shipowners. The more clients, the more brokers. The more brokers the more back-up staff such as those engaged in post-fixture and accountancy roles. The introduction of desktop personal computers in shipbroking has largely eliminated secretarial assistance in the more technically advanced shipbrokers’ offices but there are still two major areas of difficulty tending to prevent a truly thorough computerised system. The first is the difficulty of preparing charterparties, nearly all forms being based on paper of odd dimensions and in old-fashioned printed text that is frequently amended during negotiations, calling for accuracy of precise deletions and insertions when drafting. Secondly, although the facsimile machine and efficient courier services have reduced if not entirely eliminated the necessity for junior staff to spend much time running errands outside shipbrokers’ offices, those office juniors still employed find more and more of their time spent “feeding” computers with tonnage position data – including ship characteristics, whereabouts and availability – all designed to speed the identification of potentially suitable vessels for charterers seeking tonnage. It would seem that a central bureau to whom shipowners could pass details of available tonnage and from whom enlisting shipbrokers could extract appropriate data would be the answer to this problem. This, however, overlooks the demand for secrecy, both from owners who wish to disguise from the general market the availability of some or all of their ships, and secondly from the more efficient brokers who do not wish to give away their advantage. In fact, the last thing that any shipbroker wants is for charterers and owners to communicate directly, as this will reduce demand for shipbroking services. The administration of a charterer’s office depends very much on the size and type of charterer. What many shipping personnel tend to overlook, however, is that a shipchartering department of a charterer may be a very small and perhaps insignificant part of the organisation as a whole. In many such organisations the major role is in marketing their products. With steel works, for example, the supply of a power source such as coal – important though it may be to the well being of the company – may rank very low in order of corporate priority. Similarly with traders, where the lion’s share of profits is to be made in successful buying and selling of products rather than in shipment activities. Some such companies recognise the need to be efficient in chartering as in all other corporate activities and hire talented and effective staff to perform these duties. Others, however, rely heavily on outside shipbroking expertise. The former will obviously tend to be more highly staffed than the latter.