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Shipping agent

The ship master used to execute the tasks today performed by the shipping agent. The shipowner delegated his authority to him in order to organize stopovers, to receive freight and to write the necessary documents. Over time ship masters started working with a “landsman” who proved to be more and more useful because of traffic growth, the size of ships and administrative constraints. This is how the professions of shipping agent and forwarding agent representing one or several shipowners were created.

Regulation makes it mandatory for ships to appoint one agent in the port. Therefore the ship master discusses with authorities through his agent.

The shipping agent (forwarding agent when he is in charge of the ship’s port operations) is the legal representative of the shipowner during the stopover of a ship in a port and he must comply with the latter’s instructions. He will help with the preparation of the stopover thanks to his knowledge of the country, the port and the different stakeholders available on site.

He is in relation with:

  • Pilots, marine towing operators, boatmen
  • Port authorities (safety, security)
  • Handling operators
  • Goods consignees or shippers
  • Different suppliers (refueling, water/food supply, ship maintenance/repairs).

He is called “liner agent” if he is the usual representative of the shipowner and “tramping agent” if he acts on his behalf only occasionally.

While the main global shipowners have their own representation in Le Havre, others entrust the management of loaded or unloaded cargo to a shipping agent.

On behalf of just one or several shipowners, the agent takes care of the receipt of imported goods then forwards them to their final destination (factory, warehouse, etc.). He makes sure the space available on the ship is optimally used by searching cargo to replace unloaded goods during the stopover. The shipping agent therefore operates both on the maritime and land-based aspects of the economic cycle of the ship.

The different professions working with the 25 Le Havre agents reflect this diversity: operating agents take care of the relations with import clients, the organization of transport, export business research and on board space booking, preparation of transit documents or management of available equipment (empty containers for instance).


Virginie trained at the CCIH (knowledge of maritime and port professions) and holds a bachelor degree in foreign languages. She is currently working as a customer service coordinator in maritime consignment. “Thanks to this profession I developed my sales skills, I learned how to better manage time and priorities and my general knowledge has increased a lot, especially regarding national and global geography. It also gave me the opportunity to appreciate team work more and to improve my customer relations skills.

Source: multiple Internet sources, specialized literature, testimonials (Pratic-Export, Pôle-emploi cards, Wikipedia, Onisep, CNRTL, Umep à la Page…)