Who is a Ship Charterer?

Who is a Ship Charterer?

A Ship Charterer, also in Charterparty usually named in plural form as Charterers, is the person who, for the purposes of the Charterparty, controls the cargo.

A Ship Charterer may be a a mine owner such as Vale, or have bought the cargo from the mine owner under a spot contract or long-term sales contract such as Marubeni.

In grain trade, a Ship Charterer could be Bunge who sometimes ship grain from their own estates or Cargill who often buy grain from third parties.

In simple terms, a Ship Charterer controls and provides the cargo under the Charterparty. Charterers are freight market practitioners.

Ship Charterer

A ship charterer is an individual or company that hires a ship and crew for a specific voyage or for a set period of time. Instead of buying a vessel, which requires a significant capital investment, charterers lease the ship’s services for their shipping needs. There are two main types of ship charter agreements:

  1. Voyage Charterer: In this arrangement, the charterer hires a vessel for a single voyage. The shipowner is responsible for covering the vessel’s operating expenses, including fuel and port charges. The charterer is only responsible for the cargo and paying the agreed freight rate. An example would be a company chartering a ship to move a one-time bulk shipment of grain from one port to another.
  2. Time Charterer: In this setup, the charterer leases the vessel for a set period, often months or years. During this time, the charterer decides on the ports of call and manages the cargo operations. However, the shipowner typically remains in charge of the vessel’s operation and pays for its daily running costs. The charterer pays a daily hire rate for the use of the ship.

There are other types of charters, like bareboat (or demise) charter, where the charterer takes over complete control of the vessel, including operational responsibilities, for a specific period. In this scenario, the charterer is, in essence, the temporary owner of the ship.

In the shipping world, the charterer plays a crucial role, as they drive the demand for vessels. Their decisions on routes, cargoes, and charter durations can significantly influence shipping rates and market dynamics.

Apart from the main types of ship charter agreements mentioned, the relationship between shipowners and charterers involves various other aspects:

  1. Contract of Affreightment (CoA): This is an agreement between a shipowner and charterer where the shipowner agrees to lift several cargoes over a particular period, as opposed to a voyage charter where only a single cargo is lifted. This arrangement is beneficial for charterers who have regular shipments but not at the volume that requires a time charter.
  2. Bareboat Charter (or Demise Charter): As touched upon earlier, in a bareboat charter, the charterer has control over the vessel, including its technical operation and management. They are responsible for the crewing, maintenance, and other operational aspects. This type of charter is closer to an outright purchase, with the charterer having almost full control of the vessel for the duration of the charter, but without the capital commitment of buying.
  3. Responsibilities and Risks: The nature of responsibilities and risks between the shipowner and charterer varies based on the charter agreement. In voyage charters, the shipowner bears most operational risks, while the charterer takes on the commercial risk, i.e., the possibility of the cargo’s market value dropping during transit. In time charters, the charterer assumes both operational and commercial risks as they decide on the routes, cargoes, and timings.
  4. Brokerage: Due to the complexity of the shipping industry, shipbrokers often facilitate chartering transactions. They play a crucial intermediary role by helping shipowners find suitable charterers and vice versa. They also assist in negotiations, ensuring that both parties reach a mutually beneficial agreement.
  5. Impact on Global Trade: The role of charterers is crucial in the context of global trade. Charterers ensure that goods are transported efficiently and at competitive rates, making products available across the world. When charter rates are low, goods can be moved more cost-effectively, which can influence global commodity prices.
  6. Charter Parties: The agreements or contracts between shipowners and charterers are called “charter parties”. These documents detail the rights and obligations of both parties, the description of the vessel, the agreed freight rate, the duration of the charter (for time charters), or the specific voyage to be undertaken (for voyage charters). They are essential legal documents that govern the relationship between the two parties.

In essence, ship chartering is an integral part of the maritime industry, enabling the movement of goods across the world without necessitating every cargo owner to possess their shipping fleet. The decisions of charterers have wide-ranging implications, affecting shipping rates, vessel demand, and, by extension, the global economy.


Responsibilities of Voyage Charterer

In a voyage charter, the charterer hires the vessel for a specific voyage between designated ports. While the shipowner retains much of the responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the vessel, the voyage charterer also has several responsibilities:

  1. Providing Cargo: The primary responsibility of the voyage charterer is to supply the cargo to be transported. The cargo should be in conformity with what is agreed upon in the charter party.
  2. Loading and Discharging Cargo: The charterer usually handles or arranges for the loading and discharging of the cargo at the respective ports. This includes ensuring that the cargo is safely and correctly loaded and stowed.
  3. Paying Freight: The charterer agrees to pay the shipowner a freight rate, typically based on the quantity or weight of the cargo. The payment terms and conditions are stipulated in the charter party.
  4. Demurrage and Dispatch: If the loading or discharging of cargo takes longer than the stipulated laytime (the time agreed upon for loading and discharging), the charterer may have to pay demurrage, a penalty for the delay. Conversely, if the operations are completed faster than the laytime, the shipowner might pay the charterer dispatch money, which is a reward for faster operations.
  5. Port Charges and Dues: Depending on the terms of the charter party, the charterer may be responsible for certain port charges, fees, or dues related to the cargo, such as wharfage, pilotage, or towage.
  6. Nominating Safe Ports: The charterer has the responsibility to nominate safe ports, which are ports where a vessel can safely anchor and where it can safely reach and depart. A port may be safe in general but unsafe for a particular vessel due to its size or other specifications.
  7. Ensuring Cargo Safety: The charterer must ensure that the cargo does not pose a danger to the vessel, its crew, other cargoes, or the environment. This includes following international and local regulations, especially if dealing with hazardous materials.
  8. Cooperation with Shipowner: The charterer should maintain open communication with the shipowner or their representatives to address any issues that arise during the voyage. This could relate to changes in schedules, any concerns about cargo conditions, or other voyage-related matters.
  9. Documentation: The charterer provides all necessary shipping documents, such as the bill of lading, cargo manifest, or any other necessary documentation that proves the ownership and nature of the goods.
  10. Cargo Claims: If there’s damage to the cargo or loss during transit, the charterer typically liaises with the shipowner or their insurer to resolve the claims.

While these are some of the primary responsibilities of a voyage charterer, the exact duties and obligations can vary depending on the specific terms and conditions laid out in the charter party agreement. It’s essential for both charterers and shipowners to clearly understand and agree upon these responsibilities before the voyage begins.


Responsibilities of Time Charterer

In a time charter, a vessel is hired for a specific period, with the shipowner providing the ship and crew while the charterer takes responsibility for the voyage and the cargo. Here are some of the primary responsibilities of a time charterer:

  1. Payment of Hire: The time charterer is responsible for paying the agreed hire rate to the shipowner. This could be on a daily or monthly basis or as per the terms negotiated in the charter party.
  2. Cargo Operations: The charterer is responsible for providing the cargo, loading, and discharging the cargo within the stipulated laytime.
  3. Voyage Instructions: The charterer directs where the vessel should go, specifying the ports of loading and discharge.
  4. Bunker Fuel: Under most time charter agreements, the charterer is responsible for supplying and paying for the bunker fuel the vessel consumes.
  5. Port Charges & Dues: The charterer is typically responsible for paying port charges, harbor dues, and other similar costs when the vessel is in port for cargo operations.
  6. Agency Fees: When the vessel calls at a port, the charterer usually appoints and pays for a ship’s agent to handle local formalities, documentation, and other services.
  7. Stowage & Seaworthiness of Cargo: The charterer is responsible for ensuring that the cargo is properly stowed so that the vessel remains seaworthy during the voyage.
  8. Demurrage & Dispatch: If the loading or discharging takes longer than the agreed laytime, the charterer pays demurrage (a penalty) to the shipowner. Conversely, if operations are completed sooner, the shipowner may pay dispatch (a reward) to the charterer, though this is less common.
  9. Compliance with Regulations: The charterer must ensure that the cargo complies with all applicable regulations, including customs, safety, and environmental rules.
  10. Supplying Voyage Details: The charterer is expected to provide the shipowner or captain with full details of the voyage, including expected weather conditions, tidal patterns, and any potential hazards.
  11. Cargo Damage: Depending on the terms of the charter party, the charterer might be held responsible for any damage to the cargo if it results from improper handling, stowage, or any other negligence on their part.
  12. Indemnification: The charterer typically indemnifies the shipowner against any claims arising from the cargo, including damage, contamination, or delay.
  13. Return of Vessel: At the end of the charter period, the charterer is expected to return the vessel to the owner in the same condition as received, subject to normal wear and tear.
  14. Communication: The charterer should maintain open and clear communication with the shipowner or captain, especially regarding any changes in the voyage plan or any unexpected issues.
  15. Safe Ports: The charterer should only nominate safe ports where the vessel can safely reach, stay, and depart.

Remember, while these are standard responsibilities of a time charterer, the specifics can vary based on the terms negotiated in the charter party agreement. Always refer to the charter party for the exact obligations and responsibilities.


Responsibilities of  Bareboat Charterer

In a bareboat charter, the charterer takes on many of the responsibilities that would normally fall to the owner of the vessel. The charterer essentially rents the boat or ship without its crew, which means they take over operational and sometimes even legal responsibilities. Here are the key responsibilities of a bareboat charterer:

  1. Crewing the Vessel: The charterer is responsible for manning the vessel with a competent crew, including a qualified captain or master.
  2. Operational Costs: The charterer bears all the operational costs associated with the vessel during the charter period. This includes, but is not limited to:
    • Fuel and oil costs.
    • Port charges, including docking and pilotage.
    • Canal dues.
    • Provisions for the crew.
    • Maintenance and repair costs during the charter period.
  3. Maintenance and Repairs: The charterer must maintain the vessel in good working order and ensure that it meets all necessary regulations and standards. This involves routine maintenance as well as any necessary repairs during the charter period.
  4. Insurance: The charterer typically needs to provide hull and machinery insurance for the vessel as well as protection and indemnity (P&I) insurance. It’s essential to check the charter agreement for specifics, as insurance responsibilities can vary.
  5. Compliance with Laws: The charterer must ensure that the vessel operates in accordance with all relevant laws, regulations, and standards, whether they relate to maritime operations, environmental standards, or cargo-specific regulations.
  6. Return of Vessel: At the end of the charter period, the charterer is usually obliged to return the vessel to the owner in the same condition it was received, allowing for normal wear and tear.
  7. Payment of Charter Hire: The charterer has to pay the agreed hire or rental fee for the vessel, as per the terms of the charter agreement.
  8. Safety: Ensuring the safety of the vessel, the crew, and any passengers or cargo is paramount. The charterer must adhere to all safety regulations and standards, and often to the safety standards of the vessel’s flag state.
  9. Cargoes and Voyages: The charterer decides on the cargoes to be carried and the voyages to be undertaken, as long as they conform to the terms of the charter agreement. Certain charters may restrict types of cargo or zones of navigation.
  10. Environmental Responsibility: The charterer must ensure the vessel operates within all environmental laws and regulations, including those related to pollution, waste disposal, and emissions.
  11. Records and Documentation: Keeping accurate logs and documentation related to the vessel’s operations, cargoes, maintenance, and crew activities is essential. This information might be necessary for regulatory compliance or in case of disputes.
  12. Liabilities: Depending on the specific terms of the charter agreement, the charterer might be liable for any damage or harm resulting from their use or operation of the vessel.

As with any contract or agreement, the specific responsibilities of a bareboat charterer might vary based on the terms set out in the individual charter agreement. It’s always recommended that both parties fully understand their rights, responsibilities, and obligations before finalizing the agreement.


Who is a Charterer in Ship Chartering?

A charterer is an individual, company, or entity that hires a vessel from its owner. The purpose can be to transport cargo or passengers, or for other commercial endeavors. The arrangement is defined by a charter agreement or charter party, a legal contract specifying the terms and conditions under which the vessel is provided by the shipowner.

There are different types of ship chartering, and the role and responsibilities of a charterer can vary based on the type of charter:

  1. Bareboat Charter (or Demise Charter): In this arrangement, the charterer takes control of the vessel, essentially renting it. The charterer is responsible for operating the vessel, including hiring the crew, paying for operational expenses, and maintaining the ship. It’s similar to a long-term lease in property rental.
  2. Time Charter: Here, the charterer hires the vessel for a specific period. The shipowner provides the crew and pays for their wages, maintenance, and certain other operational expenses. The charterer, however, pays for the fuel and port charges and directs the vessel where to go, when to sail, and what cargo to carry.
  3. Voyage Charter: In this type of charter, the charterer hires the vessel for a single voyage or a set of voyages. The charterer provides the cargo, and the shipowner operates the vessel. The charterer pays a freight rate, usually per ton of cargo. The shipowner covers all the expenses related to the voyage, including fuel, crew wages, and port charges.
  4. Contract of Affreightment: This is a longer-term agreement where the shipowner agrees to transport several cargoes within a specified period, not tying the charterer to a specific vessel. It’s essentially a series of voyage charters.

In all these scenarios, the charterer is essentially the customer, paying the shipowner either to use the vessel or to transport goods. The specific responsibilities, costs borne by the charterer, and other terms are dictated by the charter party agreement.


Is Charterer the same as Carrier?

No, a Charterer and a Carrier are not the same thing, especially in the context of shipping and transportation. Let’s distinguish between the two:

  1. Carrier:
    • A carrier is an individual or company that undertakes the transportation of goods or passengers from one place to another. The transportation can be by sea, air, rail, or road.
    • In the context of shipping, carriers own or operate vessels that move cargo from one port to another. They enter into contracts, often known as “bills of lading,” with shippers (those who want to move cargo) to transport goods.
    • Examples of carriers include major shipping lines like Maersk, CMA CGM, and MSC, as well as airlines like Delta or Emirates.
  2. Charterer:
    • A charterer is an individual or company that rents or charters a ship (or a part of it) from its owner for the purpose of transporting goods. They may not necessarily be involved in the regular business of transportation but may need to transport goods as a part of their own business or for a specific transaction.
    • The agreement between the ship owner and the charterer is called a “charter party.” There are various types of chartering arrangements, like bareboat (where only the ship is chartered), time charter (where the ship is chartered for a specific period), and voyage charter (where the ship is chartered for a particular voyage).
    • The charterer may or may not have their own cargo. They might charter a vessel for business purposes and then contract with multiple shippers to fill that vessel with cargo.

In summary, the carrier typically owns or operates the transportation means and provides transport services, while the charterer rents or charters the transportation means (like a ship) for their specific use or business.



What is the difference between a Shipbroker and Ship Charterer?

The roles of a shipbroker and a ship charterer are distinct within the maritime industry, though they often work closely together. Here are the primary differences between the two:

  1. Definition:
    • Shipbroker: A shipbroker acts as an intermediary between shipowners and charterers (or buyers and sellers of vessels). Their primary role is to ensure that shipowners get charters (contracts) for their vessels, while charterers get suitable vessels for their cargo. They are basically the matchmakers of the shipping world.
    • Ship Charterer: A ship charterer is an individual or company that hires a shipowner’s vessel to transport goods. They don’t typically own the ship but require its services. The charterer is responsible for providing the cargo and sometimes, depending on the type of charter, other provisions related to the voyage.
  2. Responsibilities:
    • Shipbroker: Their main tasks include marketing vessels, negotiating terms of a charter party (the contract between the shipowner and charterer), providing current market insights, and facilitating the conclusion of agreements.
    • Ship Charterer: Their responsibilities mainly revolve around the cargo. They decide on the type and size of the vessel required, the route, and the timing. They also ensure that cargo is ready for loading and work with various parties like port agents and cargo surveyors.
  3. Compensation:
    • Shipbroker: They earn their income through commissions. This is typically a percentage of the gross freight or hire. The commission is usually paid once the charter is concluded, and the vessel starts its voyage.
    • Ship Charterer: They don’t earn a commission in the traditional sense. Their “profit” or “savings” would come from effective negotiation and successful transportation of cargo at the most economical rate.
  4. Type of Knowledge Required:
    • Shipbroker: They need to have an in-depth understanding of the shipping market, vessel specifications, charter party terms, and current market rates. They also need to have a good network within the industry to match charterers with suitable vessels quickly.
    • Ship Charterer: Their focus would be more on the cargo, its requirements, and the best shipping solutions. They need to have knowledge about ports, cargo handling, and other logistics-related aspects.
  1. Relationship with the Market:
    • Shipbroker: Brokers need to constantly monitor market trends, freight rates, and vessel availabilities. They have their ears to the ground and often serve as valuable sources of market intelligence for both shipowners and charterers.
    • Ship Charterer: Charterers are primarily concerned with getting their cargo transported efficiently. They, too, are interested in market trends, but mainly to ensure they are getting the best rates and to anticipate any market shifts that could impact their shipping needs.
  2. Risk Exposure:
    • Shipbroker: Their risk is predominantly financial. If they misjudge the market or fail to secure charters, their commissions may reduce. They don’t bear the risk associated with the actual voyage or cargo, as their primary role is in facilitating the deal.
    • Ship Charterer: They carry significant risk. If the chosen vessel doesn’t meet the necessary specifications or if there’s an issue during the voyage, the charterer’s cargo could be at risk. Depending on the charter type, they may also bear risks related to vessel delays or additional costs.
  3. Types of Charters:
    • Both shipbrokers and charterers need to be familiar with different types of charter agreements. For instance:
      • Bareboat Charter: Where the charterer effectively “rents” the vessel and takes on many of the responsibilities of the shipowner.
      • Time Charter: The charterer hires the vessel for a set period, but the shipowner handles the crewing and maintenance.
      • Voyage Charter: The charterer hires the vessel for a single voyage. The shipowner is responsible for the vessel’s operation, but the charterer directs where and when the cargo is loaded and unloaded.
  4. Interpersonal Skills:
    • Shipbroker: Given their intermediary role, brokers need strong negotiation and relationship-building skills. They liaise with various parties in the shipping industry and often play a balancing act to ensure all parties are satisfied.
    • Ship Charterer: While charterers also require negotiation skills, especially when dealing with shipowners or brokers, their focus would be more on ensuring the logistics chain is smooth, requiring coordination and management skills.
  5. Regulatory Awareness:
    • Both shipbrokers and charterers need to be aware of the regulatory landscape governing maritime trade, including safety standards, environmental regulations, and any geopolitical issues that might affect trade routes or cargo sanctions.

In summary, while shipbrokers and ship charterers both operate within the same industry and often interact closely, their roles, responsibilities, and concerns differ. The shipbroker is the facilitator, ensuring that vessels and cargoes find a match, while the charterer is the end client, ensuring that their goods reach their destination efficiently and economically. In many scenarios, the shipbroker acts as a vital link between the shipowner and the charterer, ensuring that both parties’ requirements are met efficiently.


Operational Dynamics and Influence of Major Charterers

Large charterers, like the ones mentioned below, can significantly influence the shipping market. Their decisions on routes, cargo, and timing can impact freight rates, vessel demand, and even influence the design and specifications of new ships. For instance:

  1. Long-term Contracts: Some of these charterers, especially the oil majors, tend to enter long-term time charter agreements. These agreements provide stability to the shipping market by guaranteeing demand for vessels over extended periods.
  2. Vessel Specifications: Given their substantial cargo requirements, major charterers can influence vessel design. They might require ships to meet specific environmental standards, or efficiency benchmarks, pushing shipowners and shipbuilders to innovate.
  3. Freight Rate Influence: The sheer volume of cargo these charterers control means their activity can drive freight rates. For example, if a significant charterer like Cargill or Vitol has a surge in demand, it can push up rates for particular vessel classes or routes.

Evolving Landscape and Challenges:

The world of shipping and chartering is not static. Changes in global trade patterns, geopolitical events, regulatory changes, and economic shifts can influence the dynamics:

  1. Environmental Regulations: With the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and other bodies imposing stricter environmental regulations, charterers are increasingly looking for eco-friendly vessels, impacting ship design and fuel choices.
  2. Geopolitical Events: Trade embargoes, sanctions, or geopolitical tensions can suddenly alter trade routes and demand. Major charterers need to be agile in such scenarios, reshuffling their chartering strategies quickly.
  3. Digital Transformation: The maritime industry, including the chartering sector, is undergoing a digital transformation. Digital platforms are emerging that can match shipowners with charterers, somewhat similar to how Uber matches drivers with riders. While traditional players remain dominant, technology might reshape the landscape in the coming years.
  4. Economic Shifts: Economic downturns or booms, emerging markets, or shifts in consumption patterns can influence the demand for commodities, and in turn, the need for ships. The COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, brought about unprecedented challenges and shifts in the shipping industry.


While the names listed here below are some of the significant players in the ship chartering arena, the maritime industry’s landscape is vast and interconnected. Collaboration and competition coexist, and every player, big or small, plays a pivotal role in this global web of trade and transportation. The dynamic nature of the maritime industry means that stakeholders, including charterers, must remain agile, forward-thinking, and adaptive to the ever-evolving global economic and political landscape.


Top 10 Ship Charterers

These companies are involved in the global trade of bulk commodities such as oil, grains, and minerals, and they charter ships to move these commodities from producers to consumers. Here are some of the prominent ship charterers based on their historical activity and volume:

  1. Vitol: One of the world’s largest independent energy traders, primarily dealing in oil and its derivatives.
  2. Glencore: A massive multinational trading and mining company, Glencore is involved in the trade of metals, minerals, energy products, and agricultural products.
  3. Cargill: An international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, financial, and industrial products and services. Cargill is also one of the world’s major charterers, especially for grain.
  4. Trafigura: A leading multinational commodity trading company specializing in metals and minerals, energy, and oil.
  5. BP (British Petroleum): One of the “supermajors” of the oil industry, BP is heavily involved in the chartering of tankers for its crude oil and refined products.
  6. Bunge: An agribusiness and food company, Bunge is a significant player in the agricultural commodities sector and charters vessels to transport grains and other commodities.
  7. ADM (Archer Daniels Midland Company): A global food processing and commodities trading corporation, ADM is involved in the chartering of ships for grains and other food commodities.
  8. Shell: Another oil “supermajor,” Shell is a significant player in the oil shipping sector.
  9. Gunvor: An energy trading company, Gunvor deals mainly with oil and oil products.
  10. HandyBulk: A commodities trader and ship charterer dealing in a diverse range of raw materials, including energy, metals, and grains.

It’s essential to note that the prominence and ranking of charterers can change based on market conditions, mergers, acquisitions, and various business decisions. For the most current list, you would need to refer to a recent industry-specific publication or analysis.