Glenn Murphy, Chairman of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers ICS (© ICS)
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The successful shipbroker of the future will need to embrace both technology and professional standards.

By Glenn Murphy
Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers Chairman Glenn Murphy


The shipbroking industry has long been a crucial and highly resp[ds_preview]ected pillar of the global maritime community, but what’s the future of the profession in a world which is both increasingly digital and professionalised?

When it comes to digitalisation, most shipbrokers have kept pace with change. Challenges are undoubtedly on the horizon, particularly as Artificial Intelligence (AI) develops and becomes ever more normalised, but the shipbroking industry is not stuck in the past. It recognised years ago that the simple act of matching ships and cargoes alone was no longer enough. Research, advisory and other value-added services are expected. Machine learning and algorithm technologies are now already being used at scale by the most successful brokers. Investment in AIS data, messaging, fixture and process management software and post-fixture systems are no longer the exception but the norm.

But despite the fast pace of technology change, some fundamentals will always remain the same. Trust is key and the need to demonstrate competency more important than ever.


The ICS is the professional body for all members of the commercial shipping industry worldwide, founded in 1911 in the UK and awarded a Royal Charter in 1920. The ICS remains the only internationally recognised professional body in the commercial maritime arena. With 26 branches and 14 teaching centres in key locations, 4,000 individual members and fellows and over 100 company members the ICS is committed to maintaining the highest professional standards across the shipping industry. The Institute‘s qualification remains the unique hallmark of professionalism in the world of shipping business.

The matter of trust between shipbrokers and their clients is absolutely essential and built over time. Most owners and charterers have well established relationships with their brokers, which have been carefully nurtured and developed.

But with clients becoming increasingly demanding and access to data more ubiquitous, contract making and piecemeal knowledge alone is no longer satisfactory.

Shipbrokers generally enter the profession at the deep end and undertake some form of internal training. They are required to provide detailed advice to principals, but are not required to have an academic grounding in shipbroking.

But in a world of increased compliance, are shipbrokers prepared for the challenges of potential increased scrutiny? How can they demonstrate that they are qualified to be advising on and handling vessel transactions and fixtures?

What needs to improve?

Every single person working on a vessel is trained to a minimum set of standards. Insurance professionals also evaluate fleets based on meeting minimum standards of safety and compliance before providing cover. However, those that are engaged in giving instructions to vessels and negotiating contracts do not require any formal education.

In an increasingly complex and congested industry, we believe that has to change.

Formal education and professional development still has an essential role to play and The Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers (ICS) is changing to support the needs of stakeholders.

New businesses continue to emerge and successful firms are going from strength to strength. But shipbrokers need to adapt to a fast-changing business environment and changes are needed.

To survive and thrive, technology and formal qualifications must be the cornerstones. Make no mistake, shipbroking has a long and prosperous future ahead if we keep evolving.

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