When a ship calls at a foreign port, the ship owner or charterer will want to ensure that the visit goes to plan. The Port Agent is the organiser that will do everything within his/her power to make sure that this happens on behalf of the ship owner or operator. For example, if there are language issues, the port agent will ensure that they are overcome; if there is paperwork to be filled in, the port agent will make sure it is perfect; if port services are needed for the ship call, the port agent will book them; and he/she will make sure the berth and stevedores are ready for the ship at its allotted time.
The port agent will be one of the first persons aboard the ship when it arrives, bringing mail, perhaps local currency, and in return he/she will be given a list of demands from the crew, such as marine fuel and lubricants, engine room spare parts, and fresh provisions. Then, when the ship leaves, the port agent will be responsible for tallying up all the costs that have been incurred during the visit for the ship owner’s account.