What Does a Shipping Agent Company Do?
Being a great ship’s agent requires a dedicated and special skillset. These agents are in constant contact with the crew and owners of a vessel, learning their true demands.
This allows them to deliver services beyond what the shipping company or the owner would expect. Here’s what makes it a very unique career path.
What is a Shipping Agent?
A shipping agent is a representative in the port of call, or other ports around the world, who manages all operational and procedural requirements when commercial vessels dock in that location. This includes managing crew transfer, essential supplies, and cargo handling (loading/discharging) as well as arranging waste declarations and customs documentation with port authorities. They are also in charge of negotiating rates with stevedoring companies and acting on behalf of the owner to ensure that their client’s interests are protected while they are in port.
There are different categories of shipping agents, including liner agents, port agents, and own agencies, with each rendering specific services depending on the type shipping agent company of work they do. A shipping agent can be employed by a ship owner, charterer, or disponent owner, or may be appointed by the principal himself.
Shipping agents can be a great resource for e-commerce businesses, as they can handle fulfillment and shipping for them. This can help to free up time and resources for them to focus on other aspects of their business. In addition, shipping agents can also provide guidance on how to get products through customs quickly and smoothly. This is especially helpful for companies that sell a lot of different types of products from multiple suppliers in different countries. Typically, large shipping agent companies will be able to offer perks that smaller ones cannot.
The Role of a Shipping Agent
A shipping agent performs a lot of ground operations and acts as the primary communicator between ship owners and third parties. He or she also takes on the role of a concierge and provides the crew with practical information on the port. This way, he or she helps them in getting more out of their work performance in the ports they frequent.
Notifying consignees of the date and time when a ship will discharge cargo is one of their key responsibilities. They also manage customs, stevedoring contracts and rates and assist the captain during docking or undocking. Furthermore, a shipping agent negotiates with the port authorities and notifies the local bar and harbor pilot’s association to arrange for the services of pilots to board the ship as it enters the channel or harbor.
In addition to that, they are liable for paying the ship’s dues and discharge duties especially when it comes to customs. This is a duty that cannot be ignored even by the most well-meaning of shipping agents.
In a digital landscape, there is an increased demand for enhanced situational awareness in port operations. The role of the shipping agent and broker is becoming increasingly important in that context. As a result, they must focus shipping agent company on ensuring the quality of the information they provide to their clients.
The Responsibilities of a Shipping Agent
A shipping agent takes care of all the regular routine tasks of a shipping company in a foreign port of call. They ensure that essential supplies, crew transfers, customs documentation and waste declarations are arranged with the port authorities without any delay. They also provide updates and reports on activities at the destination port so that shipping companies have real-time information to work with while goods are in transit.
Apart from these, a shipping agent also acts as an intermediary between the ship owner and the local stevedoring companies for cargo handling in port. They negotiate rates with the stevedoring companies and ensure that they fulfil their contractual obligations towards the ship owner. Shipping agents are thus often referred to as the ship’s concierge in a foreign port of call!
In addition to these, a shipping agent is bound by law to help the ship with whatever is required of them. This means that they should be well versed in the commercial, technical, legal and financial aspects of a ship’s operation and make every effort to meet their principal’s requirements from arrival at the port till departure.
Finally, they should always keep themselves abreast of the latest trends and developments in the industry and provide these insights to their clients. For instance, the growth of eCommerce is an area that is influencing the way in which shipping agents work.
The USP of a Shipping Agent
A USP is a unique selling point that sets your product and services apart from that of the competition. It is the reason why people are compelled to buy your products rather than those of the competitors. If you do not have a USP then it is likely that customers will not engage with your brand at all, no matter how good the quality of your products may be. To come up with a USP, you should first understand the buying behavior of your customer base. For example, if you are selling mugs then it is likely that people will be compelled to buy your mugs because they have goldstone in them or because they are very old.
Developing a USP requires a lot of thought and research. However, once you have it in place then it can give your business the boost it needs to thrive in this competitive industry.