A shipping agent is a person who deals with the transactions of a ship in every port that the ship visits or docks. In simple terms, it is a shipping agent who with a local expert acts as a representative of the owner of the ship and carries out all essential duties and obligations required by the crew of the ship.
It is the ship agent who is entrusted with taking care of every need and requirement of the crew like getting local currency, getting the mail, any repairmen in case the ship requires major repairing, refilling the food and water containers and many other such duties.
Prior to Arrival
Prior to a ship’s arrival in port, the ship agent’s duties begin with pre-arrival planning for the ship’s port call. These arrangements begin when the agent notifies the port of the ship’s pending arrival. Other arrangements center on the ship’s cargo manifest, with particular attention to the goods to be off-loaded during the port call. If the cargo was transported in highway containers, gantry cranes remove the containers. If the cargo is liquid, it’s removed at a pier equipped with pump-out facilities.
A ship agent advises local customs personnel of the arrival of freight, so the freight can clear customs with dispatch. The ship agent also arranges for “booked services” such as longshoremen to unload cargo and for trucks to move containerized freight from the port to the next mode of transportation to the final destination.
If the ship has inspections or certifications due when the ship is in port, the ship agent notifies the local government authority or the ship classification society such as Det Norske Veritas or the American Bureau of Shipping to schedule the inspection. The ship agent also arranges any required repairs.
Following the completion of cargo and port operations, the agent confers with the ship’s master to arrange for departure from the port. The ship agent makes departure arrangements with the ship’s master and pilot’s association to obtain pilots. The agent also exchanges the results of inspections and certifications with the ship management company. Following departure, the agent collects any bills due from consignees who received freight and any penalties from the ship management company for damage or late delivery. The ship’s agent then disperses these funds.
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