Introduction to Maritime Law & Shipping - Part 2

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In this section, we'll review the roles and responsibilities of owners, managers, operators, charterers and brokers.

Read: Ownership & Other Roles in the Maritime Domain

Ownership has traditionally been considered one of the factors in analyzing risk. On the other hand, information about vessel owners may be outdated, unavailable or deliberately obscured when vessel operators are engaged in questionable activity. Ownership is not reliable as a single, or main source for assessing risk in the maritime domain. The only way to be certain of what a vessel is doing, is to observe the vessel’s actual activity.

Here’s a quick overview of the various roles that manage and operate vessels.

Owner

A ship-owner is a person or company owning a ship or a share in a ship. In the commercial sense of the term, a ship-owner is someone who equips and exploits a ship, usually for delivering cargo at a certain freight rate, either as a per freight rate (given price for the transport of a certain cargo between two given ports) or based on hire (a rate per day). Ship-owners typically hire a licensed crew and captain rather than take charge of the vessel in person. Usually the ship-owner is organized through a company, but also people and investment funds can be ship owners. If owned by a ship company, the ship-owner usually performs technical management of the vessel through the company, though this can also be outsourced or relayed onto the shipper through bareboat charter.

Operator

The Operator is a technical management position within a shipping company. The role of the Operator is to ensure that all technical tasks in relation to the operation of a vessel are performed in accordance with the company's procedures. The Operator plans the voyage of the ship, arranges slings and consumables and appoints and instructs agents and stevedores.

Charterer

The person to whom is given the use of the whole of the carrying capacity of a ship for the transportation of cargo or passengers to a stated port for a specified time.

Broker

Ship brokers will work for one of the following types of brokerage:

Owner brokers are appointed by ship-owners to secure vessel or cargo charters for their vessels. Their main interest is to favor and protect the owner by negotiating the best terms and revenue.

Charterer brokers work under instruction from the charterer and are expected to circulate and negotiate his order for tonnage to secure the most favorable fixture for the cargo interests.

Independent brokers provide their services to both owners and charterers on a no win, no fee basis.

Sale & Purchase brokers represent one party in a deal to buy or sell new or secondhand tonnage.

Manager

When a ship is purchased for importing and exporting goods, a ship management team is required to maintain and operate the vessels. The function of the management team is to provide the owner with support throughout the occupancy or charter of the vessel. Vessels can range in sizes and function.

Most management companies provide the owner or operator with crew on board. When the ship comes out of the Ship Yard (where the ship is built) the management company takes it over providing technical support to the owner. Most management companies also offer other services like inspection prior to purchase, supervision during building, crew management and supply and ship lay-up solutions.

Agent

According to “THE ROLE, RESPONSIBILITIES AND OBLIGATIONS OF THE SHIP AGENT IN THE INTERNATIONAL TRANSPORT CHAIN

A ship agent is any person or company that carries out the functions of an agent, irrespective of whether they are in business as a ship agent, or they perform such functions as an adjunct to, or in conjunction with, other activities such as ship owning or operating, providing cargo handling or similar. FONASBA makes no distinction between those providing agency services as their main business activity or as a part of a portfolio of marine related services.

 Acting as the local representative of the principal, the agent provides local knowledge and expertise and ensures that the principal’s requirements are performed with the utmost efficiency and dispatch. Accordingly, the agent requires to be fully conversant with all the appropriate regulations and requirements relating to the port, area or sector in which they operate, to have a wide range of relevant contacts and be sufficiently well established and founded to be able to provide the level of service and support the principal needs.


The ship agent, as enshrined by international maritime convention, is primarily the servant of the master and owners of the vessel, the “principal”. In practice however, the agent can act for any of the parties involved in the voyage and in any capacity as agreed between the agent and his principal.

Types of Ship Agents

PORT AGENT: organizes and coordinates the port call, acting on behalf of the owner or operator of the vessel. The port agent is central to all trades and is responsible for organizing, overseeing and coordinating all aspects of the port call, from booking berth allocations and services ahead of the vessel’s arrival to finalizing the accounts and other paperwork after the vessel has sailed. Functioning as the de facto port single window, the agent is the conduit for all information exchanged between the vessel and the shore.

CARGO AGENT: solicits cargo on behalf of the owner, or operator, usually within a defined geographical area.

Operating primarily in the liner and break bulk trades, the cargo (or liner) agent is responsible for securing cargo for the line or ship operator. This requires the agent to be in regular contact with local shippers and be ready to provide information on vessel schedules, competitive rates and conditions of carriage. The agent may also offer or provide inland transportation, customs clearance and other related services. The cargo agent may be independent and represent more than one principal but in many cases the agent is tied to, or is often a subsidiary of, one specific principal.

In order to operate effectively, the port agent is required to be fully conversant with the safety, commercial and statutory requirements and regulations applicable to the port and ensure the vessel complies fully, in to ensure that no delays are caused as a result of failure to meet its obligations. The port agent will also require wide ranging and effective contacts within the regulators, port operators and service providers in order to ensure that the actions taken, and information provided, are correct and appropriate.

When developing its unique Port Procedures Survey, FONASBA identified more than 130 separate operations that a port agent may be required to undertake. Whilst it is unlikely that an agent will have to carry out all 130+ operations in a single port call, the extent of the duties and disciplines covered is indicative of the breadth of knowledge and experience that the port agent is required to have and, importantly, to keep up to date.

OWNERS/CHARTERERS AGENT: acts for another party that has an interest in the port call. The specific duties undertaken vary depending on the relationship between the parties.

Depending on the circumstances of the port call, there may be more than one agent attending the vessel. One party may decide that their best interests will be represented by appointing their own independent representative, rather than using the primary nominated agent. The exact role and responsibilities of this second agent (and indeed the title under which they operate) will be determined on a case by case basis.

Roles

  • Information about vessel owners may be outdated, unavailable or deliberately obscured when vessel operators are engaged in questionable activity
  • The only way to be certain of what a vessel is doing, is to observe the vessel’s actual activity.
  • Ship-owners typically take charge of the vessel in person.
  • The Operator is a technical management position within a shipping company.
  • A charterer is the person to whom is given the use of the whole of the carrying capacity of a ship for the transportation of cargo or passengers to a stated port for a specified time.
  • Owner brokers are appointed by charter brokers to secure vessel or cargo charters for their vessels.

Ship Management

  1. When a  is purchased for importing and exporting goods, a ship management team is required to and the vessels.
  2. Most management companies provide the owner or operator with .
  3. When the ship comes out of the Ship Yard (where the ship is built) the management company provides support to the owner.

Agents

  • the agent provides local knowledge and expertise and ensures that
    the principal’s requirements are performed with the utmost efficiency and dispatch.
  • The agent is required to be fully conversant with all the appropriate regulations
    and requirements relating to the port, area or sector in which they operate.
  • The agent is required to have a wide range of relevant contacts and be sufficiently well established
    and founded to be able to provide the level of service and support the principal needs.
  • A port agent organizes and coordinates the port call,
    acting on behalf of the owner or operator of the vessel.
  • A cargo agent solicits cargo on behalf of the owner, or operator,
    usually within a defined geographical area.

Vessel Types; In this section, we'll review the different types of vessels.

Read: Vessel Types

Containers

Containers are the most common means of commercial intermodal freight transport and now carry most seagoing non-bulk cargo, inside containers. Container vessels work as liners i.e., on set schedules between a set group of ports. Timeliness is crucial, even at the expense of sailing without a full load of cargo.

Dry Van: Containers utilized for transporting cargo overseas constructed in standardized sizes designed to accommodate general cargo.

Reefer: Refrigerated shipping container for transporting perishables, having its own stand-alone (self-powered) cooling system. Also called reefer.

Flexitank: a bladder that is designed to fit inside a 20ft general freight container and which converts that freight container into a non- hazardous bulk liquid transportation unit.

Open Side: Shipping container with side doors that drop down to give unrestricted access to the sides of the container for loading or discharging.

Open Top: a shipping container that has an open top instead of a solid roof to enable cargo, such as timber, to be loaded from the top. The container is covered by waterproof sheeting while in transit.

Flat Rack containers are especially suitable for heavy loads and cargo that needs loading from the top or sides, such as pipes and machinery. You will find collapsible containers and non-collapsible containers with or without walls.


Dry Bulk

A bulk carrier is a merchant ship specially designed to transport unpackaged bulk cargo, such as grains, coal, ore, and cement in its cargo holds. Since the first specialized bulk carrier was built in 1852, economic forces have fueled the development of these ships, causing them to grow in size and sophistication. Today's bulkers are specially designed to maximize capacity, safety, efficiency, and durability.

These vessels work according to demand, in contrast to liners that work on a schedule. After discharging, they may drift in open sea until receiving a new assignment.

 Service Vessel

There are many types of service vessels. Such as tugs, offshore support vessels or towing vessels whose principal function is to provide propulsive power to other vessels. Furthermore, service vessels provide assistance to offshore rigs and oil fields. Each type of vessel has a characteristic pattern of movement.

Service vessels sail between ports and offshore facilities and between different offshore facilities. They transfer people, equipment and supplies. They may drift in open sea near rigs or other service vessels.

FPSO

A floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) unit is a floating vessel used by offshore oil and gas industry for the processing and storage of oil. It is easier and cheaper to operate than a rig, so when possible (depending on depth of the offshore oil well) - we can expect to see it instead of a rig.

Tankers (Wet Bulk)

Tankers carry large amount of Liquid Bulk, e.g., oil, chemicals, vegetable oil, or orange juice. When tankers are not on a job, they may sail slowly or drift at sea.

Crude and Gas: 200-400 m LNG / LPG, i.e., liquid petroleum/natural gas. These tankers have a distinct upper deck and a particular maneuvering pattern when not at economical speed movement (e.g., in port waiting areas) to support the cooling process of the cargo. They cannot stand still. Crude: These tankers transport large quantities of unrefined crude oil from its point of extraction in the oil field to refineries. 

Product / Chemical Tanker: under 200 m The product tankers are designed to move refined oil products and petrochemicals from refineries to the exporting destination. Product tankers are generally smaller than crude tankers. 

Oil: Generally, there are two sub-classes; crude tankers and product/chemical tankers. However, it is possible for a single ship to switch cargos between journeys (depending on the basic specifications of the vessel’s tanks, the cleaning process between journeys, and the type of cargos - e.g., “dirty” product and crude, or “clean” products and condensate). Even VLCC’s may carry products. This scenario can be expected in the first voyage before ever loading crude.


Fishing Vessels

A fishing vessel is a boat or ship used to catch fish in the sea, or on a lake or river. Many different kinds of vessels are used in commercial, artisanal and recreational fishing. According to the FAO, there are some four million commercial fishing vessels. About 1.3 million of these are decked vessels with enclosed areas. Nearly all of these decked vessels are mechanized, and 40,000 of them are over 100 tons.

Fishing vessels operate between ports and the open sea where they work for long periods of time, since they can transship their catches to reefers and tankers and remain at sea. When fishing, they sail at low speeds (0-2) knots, and they may turn off their AIS to hide their favorite fishing spots. Vessels often fish in pairs.

Trawlers:

  • Outrigger trawlers - use outriggers to tow the trawl. These are commonly used to catch shrimp. One or two otter trawls can be towed from each side. Beam trawlers, employed in the North Sea for catching flatfish, are another form of outrigger trawler. Medium-sized and high powered vessels, these tow a beam trawl on each side at speeds up to 8 knots.
  • Beam trawlers - use sturdy outrigger booms for towing a beam trawl, one warp on each side. Double-rig beam trawlers can tow a separate trawl on each side of the trawler. Beam trawling is used in the flatfish and shrimp fisheries in the North Sea. They are medium-sized and high powered vessels, towing gear at speeds up to 8 knots. To avoid the boat capsizing if the trawl snags on the sea floor, winch brakes can be installed, along with safety release systems in the boom stays. The engine power of bottom trawlers is also restricted to 2000 HP (1472 KW) for further safety. 
  • Otter trawlers - deploy one or more parallel trawls kept apart horizontally using otter boards. These trawls can be towed in midwater or along the bottom. 
  • Pair trawlers - are trawlers which operate together towing a single trawl. They keep the trawl open horizontally by keeping their distance when towing. Otter boards are not used. Pair trawlers operate both midwater and bottom trawls. 
  • Side trawlers - have the trawl set over the side with the trawl warps passing through blocks which hang from two gallows, one forward and one aft. Until the late sixties, side trawlers were the most familiar vessel in the North Atlantic deep sea fisheries. They evolved over a longer period than other trawler types, but are now being replaced by stern trawlers.
  • Stern trawlers - have trawls which are deployed and retrieved from the stern. Larger stern trawlers often have a ramp, though pelagic and small stern trawlers are often designed without a ramp. Stern trawlers are designed to operate in most weather conditions. They can work alone when midwater or bottom trawling, or two can work together as pair trawlers.
  • Freezer trawlers - The majority of trawlers operating on high sea waters are freezer trawlers. They have facilities for preserving fish by freezing, allowing them to stay at sea for extended periods of time. They are medium to large size trawlers, with the same general arrangement as stern or side trawlers.
  • Wet fish trawlers - are trawlers where the fish is kept in the hold in a fresh/wet condition. They must operate in areas not far distant from their landing place, and the fishing time of such vessels is limited.

Seiners:

Seiners use surrounding and seine nets. This is a large group ranging from open boats as small as 10 meters (33 ft.) in length to ocean-going vessels. There are also specialized gears that can target demersal species. Purse seiners are very effective at targeting aggregating pelagic species near the surface. The seiner circles the shoal with a deep curtain of netting, possibly using bow thrusters for better maneuverability. Then the bottom of the net is pursed (closed) underneath the fish shoal by hauling a wire running from the vessel through rings along the bottom of the net and then back to the vessel. The most important part of the fishing operation is searching for the fish shoals and assessing their size and direction of movement. Sophisticated electronics, such as echo sounders, sonar, and track plotters, may be used are used to search for and track schools; assessing their size and movement and keeping in touch with the school while it is surrounded with the seine net. Crows nests may be built on the masts for further visual support. Large vessels can have observation towers and helicopter landing decks. Helicopters and spotter planes are used for detecting fish schools. The main types of purse seiners are the American seiners, the European seiners and the Drum seiners.

RoRO Vessels

Roll-on/roll-off (RORO or ro-ro) ships are vessels designed to carry wheeled cargo, such as cars, trucks, semi-trailer trucks, trailers, and railroad cars, that are driven on and off the ship on their own wheels or using a platform vehicle, such as a self-propelled modular transporter. This is in contrast to lift-on/lift-off (LoLo) vessels, which use a crane to load and unload cargo.

 RORO vessels have either built-in or shore-based ramps that allow the cargo to be efficiently rolled on and off the vessel when in port. While smaller ferries that operate across rivers and other short distances often have built-in ramps, the term RORO is generally reserved for large oceangoing vessels. The ramps and doors may be located in stern, bow or sides, or any combination thereof. 

ROROs are liners, up to 200 m in length. They can carry hundreds or thousands of vehicles and have internal decks. They work between a set group of ports.

Research Vessels

Research vessels are highly advanced mobile research stations, providing stable platforms from which explorers can deploy equipment, divers, and submersibles. 

Containers

  • Containers are the most common means of commercial intermodal freight transport.
  • Container vessels work with no set schedules.
  • Dry vans are containers utilized for transporting cargo overseas constructed in customized sizes
Select the one true statement.

What kind of container is it?

Drag a label onto each type of container.
  • Dry Van
  • Reefer
  • Flexitank
  • Open Side
  • Open Top
  • Flat Rack

Vessel Purposes

  1. Grains, coal, ore, and cement are carried in .
  2. An FSPO is a production, storage and offloading unit.
  3. An FSPO is used by offshore oil and gas industry for the processing and storage of
  4. carry large amount of Liquid Bulk, e.g., oil, chemicals, vegetable oil, or orange juice.
  5. LNG / LPG tankers stand still.
  6. Product tankers are generally than crude tankers.

Fishing Vessels

  • According to the FAO, there are some two million commercial fishing vessels.
  • Fishing vessels operate between ports and the open sea where they work for long periods of time.
  • When fishing, they sail at low speeds (0-2) knots, and they may turn off their AIS to hide their favorite fishing spots.
  • Outrigger trawlers are medium-sized, high powered vessels.
  • Freezer trawlers have facilities for preserving fish by freezing them, allowing them to stay at sea for extended periods of time.
  • The fishing time of wet fish trawlers is unlimited, since the fish are stored wet in the hold.
  • Seiners surround shoals of fish and gather them up.
Check all the correct statements.

Click on the trawler.

Click on the tanker.

Click on the service vessel.

Which pattern is typical of a research vessel?

Which pattern is typical of a fishing vessel?

Which pattern is typical of a service vessel?