There are certain key figures in maritime trade that go unnoticed by outside observers. One of them is the shipbroker, an essential middleman in maritime logistics. Last March, a new law was approved in Spain that reinforces its importance, making it a mandatory presence.
Beginning next 1 July, the vital role that shipbrokers play in relations between ships and port authorities will be regulated by said Royal Decree. For ASECOB, the Asociación Española de Consignatarios de Buques (Spanish Association of Shipbrokers), the standard is acknowledgement of a historical profession “that has always entailed a huge responsibility”.
What is a shipbroker?
But what responsibility are we talking about? Since shipbroking will be mandatory in our ports, it is now more important than ever to know what a shipbroker is and what they do.
A shipbroker, also known as a shipping agent, is an independent middleman acting in representation and on behalf of the ship holder, whether operator or owner, at the ports. As far as the authorities and the port are concerned, the shipbroker is the party truly responsible for the ship as long as it is berthed.
Shipbrokering is one of the main roles in maritime freight traffic, and in short, is in charge of conducting all procedures necessary while the ship is landed. The shipbroker must also attempt to streamline this period of time, since a long stay for the ship at the port would shoot up operational costs. For this reason, a diligent shipbroker’s actions lead to economic savings.
A shipbroker has many varied tasks and duties, since this is the party responsible for the ship as long as it is berthed at port. However, we can subdivide them thus:
- Commercial Duties: The shipbroker offers transport services to shippers or forwarding agents and is in charge of hiring transport for the ship.
- Operational Duties: The shipbroker provides the ship or crew with all procedural services related to the stay at the port. This encompasses all berthing and undocking tasks, procedures with port or customs authorities, monitoring operations in the port and managing entry rights and rights to stay. In addition to paperwork, the shipbroker takes care of more specific tasks, such as fuel supply for the ship and provisions for staff, as well as hiring additional staff.
- Freight management functions: The shipbroker is in charge of filing the off-loading manifest with customs and issuing the Delivery document, so that the owner can reclaim the freight. Additionally, the shipbroker’s duties include hiring staff for loading, unloading and stevedoring.
Defining decisions made at port
The new standard endorses the essential role of shipbrokers in ocean traffic and regulates their relationship with the Maritime Administration and port authorities. Thus, shipbrokers have become mandatory for both Spanish and foreign ships relating with said authorities. ASECOB values this as a reinforcement of the shipbroker profession, “which gives us a legal foundation to act with full freedom”.
Another particularity of the Royal Decree is the creation of a Shipbroker Registry, as a database accessible through the Ministry of Development’s website, facilitating access for ship owners and operators to these services, all while improving control over compliance with the obligation. In short, the new law casts light on a figure that was already necessary, but now with better-defined tasks and in a more transparent way.
At Bilogistik, we know that a large part of decisions in a logistical operation are made at the port. This is why we offer shipbroker services all over Spain through our subsidiary NAVISA/Alfaship. Our shipbrokers manage and supervise supply and hiring all operations related to the ship’s operation while landed, as well as carrying out all port procedures related to cargo and handling.