Celebrating its 75th year, employee-owned Transmarine Navigation Corporation is a leading bulk cargo shipping agency in the United States. Headquartered in Long Beach, California, it has US offices on the US West Coast, the US Gulf and in Hawaii. Its dry bulk activity consists of its established market position, with grain exports from the Columbia River along with a rising volume of solid fuel, sulphur and other dry bulk commodities from US Gulf, California and Puget Sound ports.

Transmarine delivers value-creating agency service by employing a different model than its competitors: while some companies concentrate their expertise in the office and send entry-level personnel to vessels,Transmarine’s boarding agents are trained veterans with an equity stake in the firm, placing experience and expertise aboard the vessel. These agents are backed by highly experienced operations mangers and senior management.

The role of an agency divides into the routine and the exceptional. Routine agency tasks are not dramatic, but performing them poorly results in costly delays and blinding confusion for vessel owners and cargo interests; performing them with reliable consistency creates savings and clarity for the company’s clients. However, it is in the exceptional issues when an agency’s expertise and collective experience produce value for the client far beyond the cost of the service.

The agent needs to communicate constantly with the vessel operator and the cargo interests to report precise operational facts and also to illuminate possible complications to people in distant time zones who are perhaps unfamiliar with local practices. Empathy is essential. The agent has to communicate a situation and its nuances, provide advice with the aid of his experience and expertise, receive instruction, and act with promptness.

It is vital that an agency have a solid relationship with the people who work at the dry bulk terminals in the port, relationships that come from years of living and working in the same community, sharing similar concerns and interests. Agents also have to have a proper and courteous conduct when dealing with port authorities on behalf of principals. Operational knowledge, communications skills, clear and efficient accounting — these are all agency essentials. But agency is a people business, where honesty and decency are the fundamentals.

Transmarine’s clients form a roster of the world’s most prestigious and recognizable companies in bulk shipping, commodities trading, grain houses, industrial conglomerates, oil companies (petcoke and sulphur), cement makers, and electricity generation utilities — from all continents.

Transmarine’s coverage map includes every dry bulk port on the US West Coast along with the ports in Texas, Louisiana, the lower Mississippi River and Hawaii.

Transmarine is pre-eminent in the tanker market, but its dry bulk vessel volume is growing on all fronts: number of calls, amount of revenue and proportion of calls. Dry bulk is a key growth area for Transmarine. The company does not perform liner container work.

Competitors are well-known dry bulk agencies. All seem to have a regional concentration and try to expand their service offerings into other dry bulk regions of the country.

Transmarine’s challenges relate to the competitive conditions of the ports and regions in which it operates, the environmental, labour and economic issues reported in the press. The poor condition of the dry bulk freight market makes cost control an ever higher priority and funds management a crucial factor in the survival of an agency. The agency that is highly disciplined with funding is performing a vital service for his principal and all other industry stakeholders.

Founded in 1938,Transmarine just became an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) majority-owned company, as from 1 October 2012. The company believes it is the first shipping agency to achieve this. There are 75 employee/ owners across offices in: California: Long Beach, San Francisco, Stockton, San Diego; Oregon: Portland;Washington: Seattle, Bellingham,Anacortes;Texas: Houston; Louisiana: New Orleans; and Hawaii: Honolulu.

Dry bulk contacts are: Peter Whittington, CEO; Jim Papp, President; Mark Hanson:VP Dry Cargo Marketing; Patrick Dunbar: Solid Fuels Marketing; Phil Brotherton: Breakbulk Marketing; Ivan Nikolic: California Dry Bulk Marketing; Scott Sullivan: Puget Sound Marketing; Tony Anderson: Columbia River Dry Cargo Marketing; Kyle Munson:Texas District Manager; and Paul Clancy: Louisiana District Manager.