look for a berth for the incoming ship;
arrange for the pilot and the tugs if necessary;
make-up the documents for the customs and harbour services;
assist the master in making the necessary contacts with the
local authorities and the harbour authorities;
arrange for the necessary ship provisions;
arrange for the bunkers if needed;
arrange for the necessary repairs;
convey instructions to and from the owner;
organize the supply, transport and the handling of the goods;
organize the necessary contacts with the stevedores;
collect the freights;
contact the shippers and receivers of the goods;
in case of damage, make the necessary contacts (only at the
master or owner's request) with the insurance
company, the P
& I club, the classification society, the nautical
inspection, the experts or surveyors, etc.
For his services/intervention, the port agent receives a fee
called "agency fee".
It is in the owner's interest to appoint a trustful and
energetic agent. It is customary in the tramp trade that the
expenses for loading and discharging are for charterer's
account. The latter shall therefore usually demand the
appoint himself the agent in the port of loading and discharging
to look after his interests. This has to be
in the charter party in the "Agency Clause" which has to
mention: "Owners' agents" or
Notwithstanding the fact that the charterers appoints the agent,
it is nonetheless customary
that the owners pays the agency fee.
If the owner is obliged to take the charterer's agent (which is
realized during the conclusion of the charter party)
can nonetheless protect his interests, up to a certain point, by
appointing a "husbandery agent", who
will then assist the master
and protect the interests of the owner, so that the actions of
the charterer's agent will
not harm the owner's interests.
Notwithstanding the fact that the agent, for his appointment,
will have the tendency to show allegiance to the
must not forget that he is in fact remunerated by the owner. It
is his duty to protect the interest of
the owner, independent of
who appointed him. This means that if the agent has been
appointed by the charterer,
he still needs to provide a full
service to the ship and the master, as if he were appointed by
The Liner Agent
In harbours in which the company does not have his own
organization, the owner of a liner trade will appoint a
The relationship between the liner agent and the owner (the
principal) is laid down in an agreement called
or "agency agreement".
In 1969 a uniform agreement was drafted by FONASBA (Federation
of National Associations of Ship-brokers and
Agents), the use of
which is highly recommended by the 23 affiliated members. This
type of agreement, "Standard
Liner Agency Agreement" refers also
to the local uses in case of intervention by the agents as
included in the
general conditions of the professional
association of the country concerned.
DUTIES OF THE LINER AGENT
The duties of the liner agent can be classified into two
categories: the duties of the cargo broker and the duties of
Duties of the liner agent as cargo broker
One of the main duties of the liner agent is to act as a
According to the size of the ships and the frequency of their
calls, the liner agent receives a certain allotment for
of acquiring cargo. In order to be as rational as possible, the
liner agent will work as follows:
he will establish a sailing list which he will circulate widely
and he will also announce the departures in specialized
(e.g. the Lloyds).
He will promptly establish contacts with forwarders, factory
agents, importers and exporters. he will mainly seek
contacts through his canvassers.
These canvassers will try to impress the shippers with the
excellent service and/or freight the liner agent has to
This can sometimes be a very delicate task to fulfil, as quite
often, the canvasser of the forwarder also visit
The liner agent's canvasser must, therefore, inform the shipper
if he doesn't have a fixed forwarder, through
commercial reasons, the bookings will have to be made.
To inform the agency of the results of their contacts and the
possible shipping prospects, the canvassers make
reports or canvassing reports.
These canvassing reports are used to forward information to
their own agent, as well as to a representative
agent or to the
As a cargo broker, the liner agent will also book outward cargo
and inform the shippers on which quay and when
the goods are to
be presented and when the loading will start. According to the
incoming bookings, booking lists
are drawn up. Meanwhile, in the
manifest department the shipping documents are collected
(shipping permits, bills
of lading) which are necessary to
commence the loading operations. The collected documents are
with the booking lists.
The liner agent also has an important role with regard to the
inward cargo. The receiver or his Forwarding Agents
holder of the bills of lading, present himself to the shipping
agent and receive the necessary information
regarding the quay
and the time where the goods will be discharged. Upon arrival of
the goods and after payment
of the reception costs and
eventually of the freight, the receiver presents the delivery
order whereupon he collects
the goods from the reception
Duties of the liner agent as dispatcher of the vessel
Besides looking after the in- and outward cargo, the agent is
also responsible for the dispatch of the vessel. As a
he needs to aim at the quick dispatch of the vessel at the
lowest cost. He should, of course, not forget
to also look after
the interest of the master and the crew of the ship.
Summary of the duties of the liner agent
As cargo broker
Provide the necessary information concerning the freight rates
and the publication of the sailing lists.
Look for cargo via notices and sailing lists.
Booking of cargo and the conclusion of the agreements.
To draw up, to initiate and deliver the required documents
(booking lists, shipping permits, delivery orders).
Contact the shippers/forwarders with regard to the deliveries
Fulfil the necessary formalities regarding the delivery and
reception of the goods.
Settle cargo claims.
To organize receptions or other entertainment.
Arrange for a suitable berth.
Contact the stevedores and the corporations.
Assist the master and his crew.
To arrange for the pilot and/or tugs.
Arrange for the clearing of the ship and the goods and to
the other custom and administrative formalities.
Deposit the note of protest.
Arrange for loading, discharging, provisioning and bunkering of
The signing on and signing off of crew members.
To mediate in case of general average.
By outward cargo
Mail the sailing lists; visit exhibitions or fairs; announcement
in specialized papers.
Contact shippers by telephone, in writing, by fax or e-mail.
Visit customers, inland as well as abroad.
Quote freight charges to the clientele.
Enter cargo on booking lists.
Forward details of booked cargo to the owners.
Hand over the shipping permits and bills of lading from
shippers; to initial shipping permit; to check bills of lading.
Deliver the shipping permits to the chief marker.
Calculate the freight in accordance with the measurement slips.
Hand over a copy of the booking lists to the stevedore.
Arrange the formalities in connection with dangerous goods.
Request a berth from the harbour master.
Draw up the manifests per destination harbour.
Arrange for clearance of the ship on arrival by the water clerk
Signing and dating of bills of lading.
Collect freights if payable before departure and before delivery
of the bills of lading.
Clearing of the ship at departure.
Inform the next port of call and the owners of the ship's
Prepare the settlement of account.
Prepare the special documents required in the different ports of
Draw up "manifest correctors" in case of wrong freight
Deal with claims.
By inward cargo
Reception of cargo plan and manifests per harbour and cargo.
Check the freight calculations.
Send loading plan to stevedores; drawing up of discharging plan.
Mail the notices of arrival to receivers.
Contact receivers/forwarders to agree on means of reception of
Draw up freight lists for customs.
Prepare the delivery orders, freight and/or reception invoices
Deliver goods on the exchange for the delivery order.
Appointment of a surveyor in case of damage to the goods.
Prepare a report to the owners in connection with damages.
Draw up settlement of accounts.
Appointment of experts in case of dispute regarding damages to
The Relationship Agent - Owner
The agreement between the agent and the owner can be established
either in writing (e.g. Standard Liner Agency
In case of a tacit agreement, the agent has authority to take
any action which is not covered in a written contract
clearly defined instructions (e.g. instructions transferred by
fax) but which may be necessary in the context of
as an agent. An example of a tacit competence is the signing, in
the name of the owner, of some
guarantees required by the harbour authorities, before they grant permission for the ship
to berth in the harbour.
If the agent does not comply with the
demands of the harbour authorities, or if he had to wait for
instructions from the owner to comply with this request,
he would harm the interests of the owner and be unable
his original task (namely his duty as an agent).
Any action taken by the agent shall bind the owners if they have
entered into a tacit agreement.
Whether the agent has been appointed by the owners themselves or
in accordance with the terms of the charter
party, makes no
difference. The agent must, at all times, protect the interests
of the owners (and of the
charterers) to the best of his ability
and always carefully follow the owners' instructions.
The agent may never exceed his authority/competence. If he
exceeds his authority anyway and refuses to accept
or follow the
instructions from the owners, he will be personal responsible
for his act and bear all the
The agent always has to be sure that third parties with whom he
deals, in the name of the owners, are well
aware of his capacity
as an agent and that all costs made in the frame of the agency,
for the account of the
owners, are regarded as such. In other
words, the agent may never give to a third party with whom he
impression that he is the owner. Therefore, it is of
the utmost importance that all documents are signed by the
as agents only or as agents for owners.
In most countries, this practice is protected by law.
Accordingly, a person who signs a document in his own name and
without reservations, is supposed to have acted
to be thus personally responsible. If, as a consequence, the
agent wants to avoid every
misunderstanding and make it very
clear that he is not acting in his personnel name ( and as such
bound) but only acts in name of his principal
(the owner) each document presented to a third party must
as agents only. Thanks to the words "as agents
only" which is universally and legally accepted, the agent
be obliged to pay, for example, an invoice for the
account of the owners and which has been accepted as such.
The mention of only the word "agent" when signing a document is
not a sufficient guarantee that the agent is not
The agent may never delegate his assignment or a part thereof to
a third person, unless he has received the
explicit or tacit
authorization from the owners to do this. All documents and
information entrusted to him by the
owners must be considered as
The Agent and the Time Charterer.
The position of the agent in a voyage charter is in fact the
same as the one from the port agent. The "Agency
stipulates who appoints the agent, Owners' agent or
agent. Usually the charterer appoints the
agent and the
owner pays the agency fee.
In a time charter, the situation is different to a voyage
charter. In a time charter, the time charterer becomes a
called disponent owner. He becomes a sort of acting owner,
who now is the operator of the ship and who, in this
appoints the agent. The time charterer decides when the ship
will load or discharge, what the ship will
load and under which
terms. During the time charter period he pays all the variable
expenses or costs of the ship
such as fuel costs, port and light
dues, tugs and pilot dues, canal dues, agency fees, and the
costs for cargo
handling. The fixed costs or running costs of
the ship such as the crew's wages, the ship's stores, the
the ship, the costs for administration and others
costs remain with the owners.; The master now has to follow
instructions of the charterer and offer him his services the
best he can. It is consequently normal not to say
that the time charterer now appoints and pays the agent. The
agent will now have to act in the
charterer's interest and
satisfy all his requirements including those of the master.
For his intervention, the agent is remunerated by the owners or
the ship's operator (in case of a time charter)
In tramping, the agent will be remunerated for his intervention
as dispatcher. This remuneration which is called
"agency fee" is
usually determined in accordance with the "Official Agency Fees"
or the agent can propose a
certain amount based on commonly used
In the liner shipping, the agent receives besides his "agency
fee" also a commission (agent's commission) for his
as a cargo broker which is determined as a percentage on the net
freight (freight less rebates). This
percentage is different for
inward and outward cargo and is, of course higher for outward
The expenses made or advanced by the agent in connection with
the ship and her cargo are called "ship's
disbursements" and are
entered in the "disbursement account".
The Liner Agent as the Owner's Confident
As mentioned before, the liner agent has two important tasks:
one as a cargo broker and one as dispatcher.
Besides these two
direct tasks, a good agent will, as a trusty to the owners, also
have an information task and a
The information task of the agent
The agent must inform the owners continuously about the facts
directly connected to the cargo of the ship.
the state of the bookings;
the prospects with regards to weights and volumes:
the assumed time necessary to load and/or discharge the goods;
the expected time of departure (E.T.D.).
Besides the above technical particulars about the ship and her
cargo, the agent needs to inform the owners
constantly about the
the financial, commercial, social and even the political
situation, not only in the harbour concerned but also in the
technical projects regarding the harbour;
large national or regional expansion programs or investments;
the possibility of strikes in or outside the harbour;
the flow of goods which takes place outside the company (by
land, by sea or by air) to destinations also called at
the names of large exporters so that the necessary efforts can
be made to acquire a part of their transport.
The control task of the agent
The control task of the agent extends on the one hand to the
services rendered to the ship in the harbour and on
hand to the handling of the goods.
With regards to the services (harbour dues, provisioning, tugs
and pilotage, repairs, etc.) the agent has to
carefully look at
the prices and tariffs as well as at the quality.
With regard to the handling of the goods, he mainly needs to
check the outward cargoes and particularly the
volumes and whether the nature of the goods were correctly given
and if the correct freight
was applied. He must also assure
himself that certain goods are not of a dangerous nature (e.g.
The Own Agent
Large shipping companies often have, in countries where they
have a lot of commercial interests, their own office,
The head of such an agency is usually a delegate from the
company who is well acquainted with the uses and
customs of the
company. He will consequently follow the same policy in the
agency as in the company. Between
the agency and the company
there are seldom any conflicts, except for local ones. The
agency often has to adapt
itself to the local practices.
Further, the own agent nearly has the same tasks as those from
the liner agent:
the tasks of a cargo broker
the task of a dispatcher
an information task and
a control task.