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What is Shipbroking?

By Debra Durkee
Updated May 23, 2024
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Shipbroking is the practice of arranging for the overseas transport of goods. Owners of transport vessels contract with the shipbroker, who then finds cargo for transport. Alternately, companies and individuals who frequently move cargo between countries and across waters work with shipbrokers to find those willing to do the physical moving.

Clients rely on the shipbroking industry to set up partnerships, negotiate deals, and be well versed in the laws that govern international trade. These shipbroking intermediaries can be used for any size of cargo and any type of product, as the network of contacts typically includes all varieties of shipowners. Shipping large amounts of goods and commodities over long distances can be costly, and finding a dependable shipbroker that can cut down on costs while still reliably moving product is an important part of international trade. All types of ships use shipbrokers to find cargo and passengers, from container ships to cruise liners.

Companies work with shipbrokers to not just find partnerships and move product, but also with the expectation that the intermediary will be there throughout the process to complete all negotiations from start to finish. These companies also typically keep track of the flow of goods and commodities between countries, file the necessary paperwork, and barter deals. In some cases, they can also be responsible for finding buyers for various types of goods. This is common in situations where the client is selling products such as oil and natural gas. In some cases, the shipbroker must be able to deal with the transport of potentially hazardous materials and do so safely.

Shipbroking can also deal with chartering various types of ocean vessels for individuals. Research teams can request a shipbroker find a vessel for salvage or exploration missions. Organizations can book cruise ships and tours through a shipbroker.

Working in a business that spans the globe, those involved with shipbroking are typically in contact with a variety of people from all over the world. It is the responsibility of the shipbroker to be the intermediary between those who own ships and those looking to hire them. The time differences between clients' locations can make shipbroking a round the clock job, and those involved should be willing to work long hours and weekends. Most individuals in the shipbroking industry have some sort of business background, allowing them to deal with individuals around the world while negotiating the best deals.

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