Such is the complexity of the liner trade, that agency has developed its own liner niche, where the demands on agents are specific to those scheduled trades. Liner trades cover more than overseeing the activity on the quayside; there is a link to be maintained between the manufacturers of goods to be shipped and the shipping lines that will carry the goods. A liner agent will “market” the transport offered by the shipping line, while balancing the satisfaction of the shipper. Every shipment on the liner service must have the correct paperwork, which in the case of a large containership could be in the hundreds of thousands. A liner agent will complete all that paperwork, or these days, complex electronic procedures, identifying the ownership of the goods, recording their precise description and weight, making an accurate detail of their destination, and ensuring that all legal obligations are met. All of this information needs to be received by the discharge port well before the goods reach the ship. Collection of payment for carriage of goods will also be organized by the liner agent.
Liner agents can be employed by the shipping line itself, but there are many independent outsourced companies offering liner agency. In contrast with port agents, liner agents are not normally based in ports, as a port is only one channel of many for the liner trades. With an integrated network, from manufacturer by road or rail to ship, to end user, liner agents can easily be based away from ports.