A broker in any field acts as a “middle man”, bringing two parties together to negotiate a deal for a fee, known as a commission. In the maritime industry, ship brokers take on the task of bringing the ship owner or operator and the cargo owner, or charterer, to the bargaining table, marrying up free cargoes with “open” ships, as those with no cargoes are known.
Once a ship or cargo has been found in the right place at the right time, the broker will turn his or her hand to negotiating rates and terms, and prepare contracts and other papers on behalf of the client. Brokers are also expected to be knowledgeable in market trends in their specialist areas, providing information to clients on available cargo space, destinations, rates and departure locations and times.
With a keen eye for market supply and demand, and knowledge of ships, ship brokers must be self-starters and highly motivated. While there are no official qualifications needed to become a shipbroker, many of the well-established broking houses ask for experience in lieu of a shipping-related qualification.