Ship Agent Duties On Ship Arrival

A good agent meets all ships on arrival unless the Captain (who may be desperately short of sleep) asks to delay this meeting. At this first meeting which may include the first officer and the stevedores, all requirements in connection with the cargo, the ship and her personnel will be discussed. Apart from the actual cargo operations the ship may need some repair work and members of the crew may need medical or dental treatment. Incidentally, the agent almost risks physical violence if on this first call he forgets either of two things the Captain’s cash and the Crew’s mail. Remember that in some ports, the agent is not allowed to set foot on board until the port health and/or the customs officials have boarded her. In many ports today, however, the ship may obtain free pratique by radio, that is the process of confirming that none of the ship’s personnel is suffering from an infectious disease. Then in turn being granted permission by the health authorities to enter the port and make contact with people from the shore. It will be around this stage when the agent will have to lodge various forms with such authorities as the Customs, the Port Authority, the administration of Lighthouses etc. To some of these the agent will have to pay (or commit himself to pay) substantial sums of money, in fact the largest proportion of the ship’s disbursements (except for stevedoring) is committed at this stage which is why advance funding is vital Of course the vital thing in the commercial area that the agent has to do at this stage is to ensure that written Notice of Readiness is properly tendered to the shippers or consignees. There are more arbitration and court battles about time counting than any other single area of dispute. Yet it is important to fix in one’s mind that the tendering of notice of readiness is the thing which ‘starts the meter ticking’ for the calculation of laytime, and possibly the consequent demurrage or despatch. This should be looked upon quite separately from when loading/discharging actually commenced. It goes without saying that at least once a day, or more frequently if circumstances so dictate, the owner will be advised of his ship’s progress and prospects.