Ship Agent Duties Before Ship Arrival

These were referred to at the beginning of the lesson as ‘that of looking after all the needs of the ship and her personnel while she is arriving at, staying in and departing from the ports’, but perhaps it is time to be a little more specific. The first thing the agent must do is, of course, to acknowledge the appointment. At this stage there are two vital things to be done. First, establish whether the appointee is to be responsible for settling the disbursement account. This is not so elementary as it may sound because there have, sadly, been many cases where the appointment has been made by the ship’s managers. Then when the actual owner has fallen into financial difficulty the managers have averred that they were only agents and have successfully avoided settling outstanding items. Of course the intimation may come from the charterers and it is then up to the agent to contact the owners. The second vital action is to provide the owner with a pro forma disbursement account, which will include the intended agency fee. The pro forma at this stage need only be in round sums under the main headings of expenditure but the object is to receive advance funding from the owner. A wit among agents once explained that he had made an agreement with his bank. The bank undertook not to act as port agents while the agent agreed that he would not lend large sums of money to shipowners. On a more serious level, even the shipowners’ international body BIMCO (The Baltic and International Maritime Council) agrees that agents should not be expected to provide the funds for a ship’s port disbursements. Other tasks before the ship’s arrival will include liasing with the shippers or consignees to determine where the ship is to berth and to maintain contact with them so that the necessary labor and equipment are ready at the appropriate time. Pilots, tugs and boatmen (for mooring) will all need advance warning. During this time contact will be made with the ship itself not only to establish its expected time of arrival and to give berthing details but also to learn in advance of any urgent requirements; a supply of cash will almost always be among these.