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Shipping Company's Local Agents- Their Crucial Role in International Shipping and Trade

A ship agent is any person or Company who usually takes care of a shipping company's routine tasks quickly and efficiently. They ensure that essential supplies, crew transfers, customs documentation, and waste declarations are all arranged with the port authorities without delay. Quite often, they also provide the shipping company with updates and reports on activities at the destination port so that shipping companies have real-time information available to them while goods are in transit.

A ship's agent works on the front lines, and there might involve an unlimited number of issues in port. The agent must work towards solving these problems. An agent needs to learn a lot fast about ships and cargo. Since ship's agents are located in all ports, the profession offers the chance to work somewhere that you might not otherwise be able to. For example, many of the agents that work in Alaskan ports found to be mostly from the east and west coasts of U.S.A.– however, they like the Alaskan lifestyle.

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Oil Tanker Safety Guide
Shipowners may use a local agent or an agent from a larger agency with offices at numerous ports. The ship owner's use of an agent eliminates the cost of maintaining an office and employees in ports throughout the world. The bottom line - ship's agents, play a crucial role in international shipping and trade. They prepare cargo documents, assist with vessel clearance, arrange for tugs and pilots and stevedoring, attend to crewmembers' needs, prepare the port statement of facts, attend to ship's husbandry, among so many other functions. Their services are vital and allow vessels to continue trading and maintain a tight sailing schedule.

The Association of Ship Brokers and Agents (U.S.A.), Inc. (ASBA) advises: "Nothing regarding agency should be considered routine… for each ship brings its problems and a new challenge to the agent. A tramp agent attends to the ship 24 hours daily".

While working with a ship's agency, one must be punctual on daily activities, especially boarding the vessel when it arrives. Of course, the agency will have a dedicated office staff to handle the agencies' business matters overall. Ship agents fall into two major categories: port agents and liner agents.

Port agent (or tramp agent) is the representative of the shipowner at the particular port where the agent is employed. The port agent may be required to work fiercely around the clock when he/she notices that a ship is due within a matter of hours. The agent must work fast to expedite the ship because time lost in port costs the ship owner money.
The port agent must be very familiar with the port and services available. The shipowner will look to the agent to secure berths, tugs, stevedoring labor, warehousing, ship repairers, chandlers, and so much more.
Boarding agent

Let's look at some of the top services ship's agents need to provide for a quick turnaround in a vessel's port call:
  1. to provide an accurate estimate of the expected costs of calling a particular port (the pro forma disbursement account). This is necessary for the shipowner to prepare an accurate voyage estimate for quoting and negotiating a freight rate;
  2. to advise all concerned of the estimated time of arrival (E.T.A.) of the vessel;
  3. to ensure that the ship's Master is aware of all local regulations. This has become even more crucial given the maritime security requirements now imposed by governments and port authorities;
  4. arrange for a berth for the incoming ship;
  5. arrange for the pilot and the tugs if necessary;
  6. to be present at or around the vessel upon the ship's arrival, sailing and shifting to/from each berth;
  7. to be present at the start and end of cargo operations;
  8. coordinate the attendance of marine surveyors of the cargo and the vessel;
  9. arrange for the necessary ship’s provisions, bunkers, vessel repairs, stevedoring labor, and other vendors of goods and services;
  10. coordinate cargo availability and operations with the shippers and receivers of the cargo;
  11. prepare and issue the port statement of facts and cargo documents such as the bill of lading.

This list is not meant to be complete. The ship's agency earns a fee payable by the shipowner. In some parts of the world, the fee that an agent may charge is set in a standardized tariff. In the U.S.A., agents are prohibited by law from establishing joint tariffs. Therefore agents compete with one another in rates and service.

Liner agents – they handle the ship during the call at the port (like the port agent described above) but also provide cargo for the ship. For example, if a ship is trading in a liner service, the liner agent's duties may also include:

Note of Reference

Types of losses - Total or Partial or general average losses
A Loss can be described as being either Total or Partial (Particular Average). A Total Loss may be either an Actual Total Loss (ATL) or a Constructive Total Loss (CTL). An Actual Total Loss is where the vessel is actually destroyed or wrecked or where the owner is irretrievably deprived of his vessel e.g., when a ship is sunk in deep waters where any salvage attempt would be impossible. A Constructive Total Loss is when it appears that the vessel is unlikely to be saved or recovered or when she can only be recovered and repaired at a cost that exceeds her insured value....

P&I Clubs guideline
The P&I Clubs are correctly called Protection and Indemnity Associations and number around 20 worldwide, with the majority being the United Kingdom-based. The shipowner in taking out insurance with a particular association becomes a member of that Club. The Clubs are mutual, which means that all costs involved in providing cover or paying out a claim to anyone are shared by all members. This is achieved by setting a rating or premium for the owner, known as an "advance call," and is based on the owner's history and exposure to risk.

War risks areas -related advisory
There are additional trading restrictions placed on the ship regarding so-called war risk areas. War risk areas do not necessarily mean an area where there is a war and may include hostile environments such as areas where civil commotion or revolution is taking place.

Cargo ship procedure - Deviation clause and port of refuge
A deviation is a departure from the intended voyage or contract of carriage. This can occur either where the course of the voyage is specifically stated and is departed from or where the course of the voyage is not stated, but the usual route or customary route is departed from. However, it should be noted that deviation does not necessarily mean a physical change in the course. It can occur in a simple case of slowing down to receive stores at an intermediate off-port-limits call. ...

Salvage contract -Using The Lloyd's Open Form for "No-Cure-No-Pay" salvage contract
The Lloyd's Open Form or "LOF" is the most widely-used "No-Cure-No-Pay" salvage contract. In return for salvage services, the salver receives a proportion of the salved value (the ship, its cargo, and bunkers).

Role of ship classification society
Classification societies verify the structural strength and integrity of the ship's hull and its fittings, as well as the reliability and function of the propulsion steering systems, power generation, other systems on the ship....

The Master’s Responsibility during Salvage Operation
Request for Salvage - The Master shall normally request salvage after consultation with the Company. However, he has complete authority to seek salvage assistance without referencing the Company if he considers this necessary.

Requirement of towing arrangement in oil tankers, readyness, & training onboard
All Oil, Chemical and Gas Tankers above 20000 DWT, constructed on or after 1st July, 2002, are equipped with an “Emergency Towing Arrangement (E.T.A.) both Forward And aft to provide the ship with a rapidly deployed towage capacity in an emergency.

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