It’s not just about the port calls

Eric Barnard, GAC Group Sales Director of Shipping, explains that the role of the ship agent is much more than providing agency services, it’s about helping customers grow.

“As one of the world’s largest providers of shipping, logistics and marine services, GAC has over 50 years of experience in delivering ship agency services for dry bulk vessels. During this time the core role of the ship agent — to facilitate the safe and timely delivery of cargoes across the world’s oceans and river ways — has remained fundamentally the same. But the business of ship agency has matured, diversified and expanded significantly in recent years in response to changing customer needs.

In today’s competitive market and challenging economic times, owners need a ship agent who can provide a complete package of time and cost-effective solutions. At GAC, we believe we can play an important role to help deliver our customers’ business strategies. It is not just about providing a service when and where it is needed, but working with the customer to ensure that everything we do for them adds value and helps to realize their commercial goals.

A ship agent needs a varied set of skills and resources to meet the needs of the dry bulk sector, including expert industry knowledge, a thorough understanding of local requirements, a global network, the means to respond to the market’s changing needs and the ability to provide a range of supporting services beyond the basic agency role. GAC offers a range of additional services such as maritime security, hub agency, crew travel, spares logistics, ship supply services, bunkering, weather routing and more. Customers can select the extras they need to build a comprehensive package of services — all from a single supplier, saving time and money.

Shipping is in flux. Owners and operators are facing record high bunker prices and restricted access to credit, compounded by tonnage oversupply and depressed rates. Belts are tightening everywhere, margins for error or delay are slimmer than ever and their commercial consequences all the more severe.

Smart ship agents have responded to customers’ needs with the use of sophisticated IT tools and integrated service solutions. GAC’s Global Hub Service comprising of a Global Disbursement Centre in Dubai and supported by four regional Hub Agency Centres, offers a consolidated service for clients wanting to control and save on port call-related expenses, including Disbursement Accounts (D/A) management.

A thorough understanding of the technical and operational requirements in the handling of dry cargoes is essential. For example, all parties involved in the transportation of coal must understand its particular requirements, ranging from monitoring the correct transportable moisture limit to working with ships’ Masters to oversee proper handling of debris to ensure there is no contamination of the cargo, vessel or the environment.

The movement of dry bulk cargoes is a fragmented business. More than 40 professions can be involved in loading or unloading shipments, so it is vital that the vessel and its cargo are entrusted to an agent with the knowledge, experience and resources to oversee the entire process.

Supply chains must have the agility to accommodate fluctuations in trade routes. The right shipping agent can make a big difference, if they have the global resources to respond to changing trade patterns and in-depth knowledge of their local markets to respond proactively to anything that might pose a threat to the safe, timely and efficient movement of their customers’ cargoes.

A clear example can be seen in India, which has witnessed a big drop in the number of vessels carrying iron ore exports in recent months as a consequence of the government’s crackdown on unsafe mining practices. GAC’s 26 India offices, particularly in smaller ports, have diversified to cater to more vessels anchoring at outer port limits waiting to secure cargoes. Limiting costs whilst at anchor means securing the best-value ship supplies in good time, whilst ensuring that cleaning and waste disposal is carried out in full compliance with all the regulations. GAC India’s flexibility in meeting those needs is a key advantage.

GAC Australia too has proven its adaptability in responding to the requirements of its coal customers. Australia’s coal trade is susceptible to seasonal weather and North Queensland’s coalmines and ports can be affected by heavy rain, which disrupts mining and transportation and results in berthing delays. Another challenge Australia will face in the future is the movement of large numbers of vessels on a single tide to maintain the throughput of coal cargoes. Growing coal exports need more port calls, and so the risk of congestion rears its ugly head.

Whatever the circumstances, the shipping agent plays a vital role in minimizing its customers’ costs by doing all they can to ensure a prompt departure.

Regulations differ between countries, but also from port to port in the same country. The Port of Geelong in Australia has its own detailed protocol on the handling of dry bulk cargoes covering loading and unloading, dealing with wash-down residues and cleaning the facility, the vessel and local roads. Ensuring that all of the relevant authorities are engaged, paperwork filed correctly, communication with all parties is effective and measures are put in place to ensure compliance is time- consuming and complicated. Appointing experienced ship agents with in-depth local expertise and good working relationships with the authorities reduces risks and saves time and money.

Service standards may vary widely from region to region or even port to port. Whilst the Federation of National Associations of Ship Brokers and Agents (FONASBA) sets best practice guidelines on a global level, regional member bodies can also stipulate their own quality objectives. A global organization such as GAC guarantees the same high level of service quality the world over.

The shipping agent has an important role to play in ensuring that dry bulk shipments make their way around the world in a safe, timely and cost-effective manner. And a global agent with a breadth of service solutions, proven expertise across a range of specialist sectors and understanding of local markets, is a vital ally for shipping companies seeking to control costs, increase efficiency and deliver their business strategy. GAC’s extensive portfolio of services delivered from a network of more than 300 offices worldwide does just that.”

FONASBA helps shipowners identify quality agents 

Headquartered in London, the trade association FONASBA represents the world’s ship agents and brokers. From the large global marine service providers with representatives in all the world’s major ports, to small family-run concerns, the role of a ship agent is to represent the interests of the shipowner, operator or charterer — ‘the principal’ — while the ship is in port, and to ensure that the call is completed as quickly and efficiently as possible, but at the same time ensuring all the statutory and regulatory requirements are fully met. FONASBA believes that it is important that principals can easily identify those agents and brokers who are well-funded and demonstrate a tangible commitment to quality and to this end the FONASBA Quality Standard was launched in October 2007.

Working with an agent or broker displaying the FONASBA Quality Standard reassures the principal that they are dealing with a company that is well run and has all the resources necessary to ensure that their requirements are carried out in a professional manner.

The standard is only awarded to those companies that are:

  • a member of a FONASBA member association;
  • can prove their financial standing in accordance with the accounting laws of their country of domicile; and v have made a firm commitment to professionalism and the ongoing education and training of their staff.


There is no international regulation governing who can and cannot be a ship agent or broker, yet shipowners often entrust their highly valuable vessels and cargoes to companies whose financial probity or expertise is unknown. By providing the maritime industry with a robust, enforceable and practical Quality Standard, FONASBA has helped to ensure that the activities, responsibilities and liabilities of agents and brokers are subject to scrutiny.

FONASBA also recognizes that some Full Member associations have their own pre-existing quality standards and that some national authorities set minimum statutory standards for the provision of ship broking or ship agency services. Furthermore, it also recognizes that ISO standards have been established for the shipbroking and ship agency professions and the FONASBA criteria include provision for compliance with these protocols to count towards achieving the Quality Standard.


To ensure compliance with relevant national laws and regulations, the national criteria governing the award of the Standard are proposed by the national association and are then put forward for approval by FONASBA’s Executive Committee.

The key requirements in all national Standard criteria are that:


  • the applicant company must be, and at all times remain, a current member of a FONASBA Full Member or an Associate, Club or Candidate Member;
  • the company shall be bound by, and at all times act in accordance with, the FONASBA Code of Conduct;
  • ensure that all its operations are carried out to the highest levels of professionalism and in accordance with all relevant national laws or regulations;
  • maintain appropriate accounting policies and controls, ensuring that principals’ funds are accounted separately from those of the company itself; and
  • ensure that all members of its staff are trained to the appropriate level and ideally encourage staff to study for, and pass examinations based on the syllabi of recognized authorities or educational institutions


Companies awarded the FONASBA Quality Standard are subject to at least a biennial audit by their own national association or, in the case of an Associate, Club or Candidate member, by the FONASBA Secretariat. 
DA-Desk joints Maritime Anti-Corruption Network 

In 2011, when the UK Bribery Act took effect, it had an immediate impact on the maritime industry — and was an underlying stimulus for the formation of the Maritime Anti- Corruption Network (MACN). Today, MACN is a network of socially responsible maritime companies that have joined together to bring the issue of bribery and corruption to the forefront of the industry. DA-Desk, the world’s largest independent port cost management service provider which was founded on the principles of transparency and integrity, announced in January that it had become an associate member of MACN.

As an associate member — a company within the maritime industry that does not own or operate ships — DA-Desk will participate in the organization as a whole. The company also will join and actively contribute to one of several specific working groups committed to driving industry consensus, enabling the study of root causes and possible solutions, and developing a system to share information industry-wide.

According to Domenico Carlucci, DA-Desk chief compliance officer and financial services director, “Compliance, which includes anti-corruption, is a priority for DA-Desk and an increasingly complex and costly issue in our industry. Through DA-ComplianceSM, we work diligently on behalf of our customers to ensure transparency and integrity in all transactions. We are excited to be able to share our many years of experience and our understanding of best practices with the members MACN — and to contribute to the development of broad-based, effective industry solutions.”

This past October DA-Desk joined the United Nations Global Compact Network a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations around ten principles in the areas of human rights, environment, labour and anti-corruption. Joining MACN deepens DA-Desk’s commitment to these very important core values.


The Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN) is a global business network working towards its vision of a maritime industry free of corruption that enables fair trade to the benefit of society at large. MACN Members promote good corporate practice in the maritime industry for tackling bribes, facilitating payments, and other forms of corruption by adopting the MACN anti-corruption principles, communicating progress on implementation, sharing best practices, and creating awareness of industry challenges. MACN also collaborates with key stakeholders, including governments, authorities, and international organizations, in markets where corruption is prevalent to its membership, to identify and mitigate the root causes of corruption in the maritime industry.


DA-Desk was founded in 2001 on the principle that an independent, distinct disbursement account service — not owned by port agencies or shipping companies — could provide an objective, automated DA process that would benefit both principals and agents. The company’s unique concept took hold and today DA-Desk, headquartered in Sharjah, UAE, is the world’s largest independent port cost management service provider. The company’s flagship service, PortSpend Management, and its companion service, PortPayables, along with other services and tools, deliver operational efficiencies, enhanced security, and cost savings and manage regulatory compliance for more than 160 customers across the globe whose annual port calls range from 100 to 6,000. DA-Desk has 25 senior executives and 350 operations staff working in dedicated teams on behalf of its customers. The company maintains verified details on more than 8,000 agents in its comprehensive Agency Database and processed more than 100,000 port calls in 2012.

For an in-depth report on DA-Desk’s activities, please see 'Taking the pain out of port costs: DA-Desk fits the bill,' on p33 of the February 2012 issue of Dry Cargo International magazine.

THB — shipbrokers and agents since 1988 & Carl Polzin Logistics

Since 1988 THB has been acting as a shipbroker for numerous renowned groups and medium-sized companies. Today the company is structured in the business segments:

  • shipbroking;
  • ship-operating; and
  • port agency service.

THB is continually on the lookout for suitable and good value shipping spaces of all sizes around the world, in order to transport its client’s bulk and breakbulk cargoes to their destination in time.


THB’s primary functions as a shipbroker is the segment of bulk and break bulk cargo.

The company has special expertise in the transport of iron ore, coal, grain, wood pellets, steel, and aluminium and scrap metal, from Handy to Capesize shipments.

It has a subsidiary in Dusseldorf servicing its clients in the Rhein/Ruhr area.


THB serves as an operator in the segment of breakbulk and project cargo.

The company has expertise in the transport of steel and steel products as well as plants and machinery. The service portfolio encompasses the surveillance of cargo securing and handling processes.

On behalf of a leading industrial client,THB has operated vessels transporting straddle carriers from Durban to Port Elizabeth (South Africa).


THB also offers Port Agency Services as owners and charterers’ agent in Bremen, Bremerhaven, Brake, Wilhelmshaven, Cuxhaven, Stade, Hamburg and Kiel.

The following services are offered by THB:

  • v inward and outward clearance in coordination with authorities and other involved parties;
  • v ordering of tug-operators, pilots, moorers etc.;
  • v co-ordination and documentation of cargo operations;
  • v delivery of ship provisions (spare parts, food etc.);
  • v crew change; and v waste disposal.


Carl Polzin Seehafenspedition was established in 1925. The company’s focus is on providing logistics solutions for steel industry, machinery and plant engineering as well as commercial enterprises in the natural product sector.

Carl Polzin shipped 60,648 tonnes of pipes from Bremen (Germany) to England and Ireland on behalf of a leading international producer of large pipes.

Carl Polzin also took care of the FOB handling and supervision of handling processes.

The company offers project, sea, air and hinterland logistics from a single source. Its experienced team works with an international network of agencies to ensure that clients receive the best possible solution. Carl Polzin’s specialist fields include logistics solutions for steel, machinery and plant engineering and natural product industries.

SEAFREIGHT LCL/FCL Regardless of whether clients wish to ship LCL (less than container loads), FCL (full container loads) or particularly large and heavy goods Carl Polzin can offer a full spectrum of maritime logistics services.

Its Seafreight department continually assesses various shipping companies for its clients.

As well as economic criteria, the company also sets great store by ecological and social standards to allow clients to select their suppliers on the basis of both budgetary and sustainability.


Carl Polzin can also help clients to plan, organize and realize cost-effective part and full charter flight to transport cargo by air to the destination.

If required, the company also take care off planning, organizing and realizing point to point transportation.

It will also assist with pre- and on-carriage by lorry, rail or inland vessels. 
Turkey and the Black Sea covered by Catoni

Catoni provides ship agency services for the vessels calling any port within its agency network covering the entire geographical area of Turkey and Black Sea.

The company’s major services under ship agency activity are: are: port agency; transit agency for the Turkish Straits; and agency services for offshore/ drilling projects.

Catoni is a Group of companies performing mainly in Transport industry across the world. The long history of Catoni, since its foundation in 1846, is clear evidence of its experience, professionalism and reliability. The transport activities of Catoni can be grouped as shipping (liner agency, port agency, offshore drilling services, chartering) and freight forwarding & logistics (ocean – air – land freight forwarding, warehousing & distribution, supply chain management, customs brokerage, and specialized services).

Catoni is well known with its specialized expertise in ship agency services, which has been its traditional activity since 1846. Benefiting from its 12 offices in Turkey, Georgia, Bulgaria, Romania, Azerbaijan and North Iraq, Catoni is able to supply uniform service standards to its business partners and clients within Turkey and the Black Sea region and recently in North Iraq.

Ship agency services are vital within the shipping industry, as they include the whole process starting before the vessel’s arrival and ending with her sailing from the port. During this period, ship agents are responsible for representing shipowners/ operators/charterers in the port, co-ordinating the vessel’s operation, cargo movement, documentation and information flow, supplying necessities requested for the next voyage of the vessel, solving problems and managing urgent crises if they occur. Therefore, the selection of the ship agent is a serious decision for a shipowner/operator/charterer for ensuring smooth, efficient and risk free operation.

Ship agents play a crucial role in Turkey and the Black Sea because they are almost the only party that the official authorities and port authorities deal with for any issue related to the vessel at the port. As an experienced ship agent, Catoni is totally aware of the expectations of all parties including shipowners, charterers, traders, and strives to render exclusive service for its principal.

Port agency is a part of shipping sector where the competition is very severe. The level of competition in Turkey is very high — there are around 600 agents in Istanbul alone. Catoni has an excellent reputation, as well as valuable references and a long history. All these are supported by the core values of the company — transparency, honesty and professionalism — and are Catoni’s greatest strengths in the market. Another advantage is that Catoni offers its regional presence all over the BlackSeaandTurkey. Throughitsmostvaluableasset—highly skilled and experienced employees — the company can manage challenging situations on time and deliver appropriate solutions to its principals.

Catoni is competent to provide ship agency services to all types of vessels including tankers, container vessels, Ro-Ro vessels, general cargo vessel, cruise vessels, seismic research vessels and offshore drilling units. Catoni acts as agent for about 1,000 vessels per year. The philosophy of Catoni is a customer- oriented business approach and maintaining customer satisfaction. Therefore, the company provides boutique services for its clients and shapes its services according to customers’ needs and expectation. This philosophy gives Catoni the privilege of serving reputable shipping/trading companies like NYK, BP Shipping, BAHRI and Hapag Lloyd. Besides global players, Catoni provides customer- oriented services for strong regional companies like Master Project,TMBCL, UECC and UN RoRo. 

Agency expertise in the Baltic region 

INTER BALT is the forwarding and ships’ agency arm of major Polish coal trader, the Weglokoks S.A. Group. It was founded as a limited liability Polish company in 2003, with its head office in Gdansk. It also has branch offices in the country’s remaining major ports such as Gdynia, Szczecin and Swinoujscie. Today, the company has about 46 employees, including six who are highly skilled and experience in the dry bulk sector of the shipping business.

INTER BALT is the largest supplier of services for vessels loading Polish coal at all Polish ports with an approximate 15–20% share of the whole Polish shipping agency market.

The company’s current focus is on providing ships’ agency services for the benefit of shipowners.

INTER BALT’s success is driven by its people, and by their unrelenting focus on delivering high-quality and comprehensive ships’ agency services.

In 2012, INTER BALT served as a port agent for 300 vessels. About 50% of that volume occurred in the ports of Gdansk and Gdynia. INTER BALT’s agency team also supports services in shipyards, and is involved in another branch of activities — shipbrokering.

As the representative of the Weglokoks Company in Katowice on the Polish coast, INTER BALT also provides comprehensive services in the field of coal forwarding in Polish seaports. Apart from forwarding services for Weglokoks S.A. Katowice and other operators, it trades in coal on the local domestic market.

INTER BALT offers end-to-end dry cargo management solutions to principals for the last eight years and provides customized answers, which incorporate procurement, shipping, port logistics, land transportation and shipping consultancy.

Ninety per cent of the dry bulk commodities carried by INTER BALT’s customers are either coal, iron ore or biomass.


INTER BALT recognizes that owners need excellent services, and for that reason its employees work around the clock to find better, cheaper ways to satisfy its principals and to make the necessary arrangements for handling owners vessels.

As the port agent, INTER BALT comes into contact with individuals and organizations. These include ships’ masters, officers and crew, customs, immigration, port authorities, towage companies, boatman and stevedores.

Depending on circumstances, owners need a range of services, including the arrangement of repairs, surveys, medical attention and so forth. This list is by no means exhaustive, but merely serves as an illustration of the diversity of people and organizations that are involved at one time or another with a vessel and its cargo during a port call.

INTER BALT helps its principals to comply with legal requirements, both Polish and international. It is important to remember that, in recent years, new legislation has been introduced which includes PHICS in Polish ports, and the Paris MoU, a new inspection regime. Therefore, as a ships’ agent, INTER BALT must take particular note of these developments, and adapt its working practices accordingly.


INTER BALT’s major clients include the four companies: GFD Suez, SUEK AG,Weglokoks,Vattenfall and SUEK Polska who between them represent 95% of INTER BALT’s principals.


INTER BALT works hard to remain competitive in the bulk agency market, and must deal with competition from companies including Inchcape, Rentrans and Anchor.


In the last few years, there have been changes in the Polish coal industry, with mining experiencing a fall. As a result, INTER BALT must adapt to the changing requirements of the market. Its new focus is therefore on the imported coal market, as well as on the import of biomass, other new materials, project cargoes and fuel, to replace the fall in coal export quantities that are the result of the recession.

INTER BALT is a member of the Polish Shipbrokers’ Association and BIMCO.
Dry bulk key area of growth for Transmarine 

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. ship agency services in Denmark, Sweden and France is a logistics company with its own terminals, trucks and ships. Its line of business is agency (including STS), stevedoring, chartering, air freight, courier service, project cargo and road — both import and export. Furthermore, it offers storage facilities and bagging. is part of USTC (United Shipping & Trading Company), which is owned by Torben Østergaard-Nielsen.

ACTIVITIES is one of the leading logistic companies in Denmark. It focuses on: v ship agency; v ship-to-ship operations;


  • v project shipments;
  • v terminals;
  • v stevedoring; and
  • v road division


this in order to avoid delays on the vessels and penalties for the principals. A good agent can save owners a great deal of money in reduced lay time and in general port costs (reduced number of tugs etc.).

MAIN AGENCY ACTIVITIES handles about 2,000 port calls per year with more or less a 50/50 split between dry cargo and tankers. This gives it extensive expertise and knowledge of the market, which it always strives to extend to all its locations. The company’s position within agency on dry cargo vessels has been built up through investments in terminals, warehouses and equipment, which is highly valued by the cargo owners.


With all the new IT systems and registration demands


With offices in all the ports mentioned below, covers all of Denmark’s ports and the northern part of the Swedish west coast:

  • Frederikshavn;
  • Aarhus;
  • Fredericia;
  • Aabenraa;
  • Kalundborg;
  • Køge;
  • Copenhagen;
  • Lysekil, Sweden; and
  • Marseille, France.


The main role of an agent is co-ordination and foresight. is its principals’ local representative, who has the local knowledge enabling us to ensure optimal and smooth operation. The agent has to know all parties involved in the cargo operation and needs to be able to foresee potential problems and prevent them, rather than solving them once they have occurred.

With the increase in demands and new systems from authorities, it is important for an agent always to be updated on from both Danish Authorities and EU Law, it has become much more complex to act as a shipping agent, and in many cases owners/ charterers can face penalties if they fail to remain up to date.When the shippers and owners take on a shipping agent, the shipping agent takes over some of the obligations otherwise placed on the shippers and owners. takes pride in the fact that its Agency department is well renowned for always being extremely up to date. 

Biehl: steady on course 

US ships’ agent Biehl has been a recognized entity in the shipping industry since the beginning of the 20th century. Respected worldwide and financially sound, Biehl stands poised to lead the way among ship agencies into the 21st century. Biehl maintains its position by retaining highly qualified personnel and utilizing the latest technology available to assist each principal to conduct business. In addition to offering the full range of ship agency services, Biehl also acts as owners’ or charterers’ protective agents or as husbanding agents in connection with dry-docking and other special circumstances. Founded in 1905, Biehl’s service to the US Gulf Coast in Galveston precedes the establishment of the Port of Houston. Shortly after World War I, Wilkens & Biehl, as it was then known, opened the first office in Houston. Since then Biehl has grown to become one of the largest steamship agents in the US with 17 offices located in the US Gulf and US East Coast. Biehl continues into its fourth generation of continuous family ownership proving that the company can easily adapt to the changing shipping landscape.


Biehl is one of the largest agencies in the US with expertise in handling dry bulk commodities from petcoke and coal to grains and fertilizer. Its customers rely on its value-added services to not only handle their vessels but also provide them with relevant market data and up to the minute information which is critical in handling their business. When requested, Biehl can evaluate project viability, verify design economics and review contractual language to identify potential issues.


Serving the needs of its customers throughout the US Gulf and US East Coast, Biehl agents and offices are prepared to address customer needs. Seventeen local offices eliminate the need to travel great distances. The company’s offices are plugged into the local community, from the port authorities to terminal operators — it acts as its customers’ eyes and ears.


Biehl invests in its most vital asset: its people. Managers communicate with staff and colleagues to exchange ideas, identify trends and ensure continuity across locations. Conference attendance is encouraged as are opportunities for professional development. The Next Generation Program identifies talent within the organization and selects those individuals for additional specialized training. Biehl is proud of its heritage of family leadership and is eager to develop the next generation of shipping managers from within its own organization.


Biehl employees are trained to anticipate and proactively address challenges. In most cases, it resolves operational issues so swiftly, its customers are never aware of them. For example, draft bills of lading are prepared well in advance of the vessel’s arrival so that, upon completion of loading, only the cargo figures need to be included. Biehl further demonstrates its commitment to advance preparation by providing customers with timely port information, weather updates and most significantly, by offering customers the benefit of years of experience with a particular port, ensuring seamless vessel operation. Biehl can tailor any service or request specifically to the customer’s requests. Detailed work instructions (which the customer can revise at any time) are developed and discussed to clearly outline customer expectations. Once completed, these instructions are shared between offices to ensure continuity of service. These work instructions are also regularly reviewed to evaluate customer satisfaction.


Due to the considerable amounts involved, Biehl places utmost importance on safeguarding customer funds. Both bonded and well insured, Biehl is able to cover whatever issues may arise. Its advanced accounting software enables it to create customized reports and data that can be exported to customers’ specifications, eliminating double data entry and saving its customers both time and money. For some large volume customers, it also provides designated accounting services staff that are attuned to a particular customer’s needs and is better able to respond to their requests.


Biehl is a firm believer in measuring performance. Its ISO system tracks and records multiple aspects of its operations. ISO-dedicated staff visits each office quarterly, and all offices are subject to annual ISO performance audits. Biehl ensures a high level of performance through extensive internal training and by requiring Association of Ship Brokers and Agents (ASBA) testing and certification of all operations personnel.


As a member of both Multiport and the Association of Ship Brokers and Agents (ASBA), Biehl annually submits to two independent audits to ensure continued membership in good standing with each organization. This attention to fiscal control contributes to the company’s positive financial standing with no debt and ample opportunities for expansion. The company owners allow the profits to remain within the company to be used for expansion both internally and through acquisition.