Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers
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No dummies in the ICS
Posted on Friday, September 13, 2013 and tagged as Press
Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers
"PORT side to, three gangs and
don't forget the dummy," shouted Captain Hughie Roberts, the
Pakistan National Shipping Corporation supercargo, as he left the
office at about 20:00 on Friday.
It was the first ships' agency I had
handled on my own from Tilbury Docks, but it seemed quite
straightforward: the vessel would be arriving on Sunday afternoon
for work at 8 -9 sheds general cargo berths on Monday
But as many know in shipping, the
best-laid plans are subject to change. There were storms in the
English Channel over the weekend and the ship's estimated time of
arrival went back and back.
I spent much of the weekend updating the
harbour master, the pilots and tug company, and the vessel
eventually arrived alongside at 02:00 hrs Monday.
After visiting the ship once it was
alongside and going over the paperwork with the dog-tired master, I
crawled into bed at around 04:00, quite pleased that I had
accomplished my first ship agency assignment.
So despite the lack of sleep, I arrived at
Tilbury in good spirits in time for the 07:00 shift, only to be met
by an angry, red-faced Capt Roberts.
"Where's the **** dummy?" screamed the
I looked around the dock to see scenes of
chaos: there were barges everywhere and dockers huddled together
smoking and laughing, but not working...
In the middle of organising the PNSC
ship's arrival, I had forgotten to order the dummy quay that
allowed barges to be worked from both sides of the ship.
Three hours' work was lost as the mooring
gangs were recalled and the dummy quay positioned. Suffice to say,
I was not the most popular young agency clerk for a while, but it
was a salutary lesson and a mistake I never made again.
I started my shipping career in liner
agency as a junior clerk, progressing in due course to Malta port
clerk, issuing bills of lading against shipped on board dock
This involved noting any defect/damage and
adding a clause appropriately, but there were already many clauses
in small print on the back of the bills of lading, such as: the
Paramount clause; the Both to Blame Collision clause; the New Jason
clause and the General Average clause.
I had no idea of their significance and
asking around my seniors, it seemed not many of them did either.
Most said: "We don't get involved; that's for the claims
I vowed one day to learn what they meant
and several years later, when I became Tilbury regional manager at
a major agency company, I started my quest for knowledge in
Being at the sharp end of operations, I
obviously had a good foundation of knowledge, but when I signed up
to take the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers exams, I soon
realised how comparatively little I actually knew.
I have to admit I struggled to cover the
comprehensive range of examinations that qualify you for
membership, trying to balance studying with a demanding job and a
young family. In fact, I failed law at my first sitting and found
it very tough to pick up the legal books again to retake the exam
the next year.
But I did it, and it was one of my
proudest moments when I received a letter confirming I had passed
the final exam and would, in due course, be elected to membership
of the ICS.
The company I was working for
congratulated me - but that was it.
Indeed, it is a poor reflection of the
shipping industry in the UK that no qualifications are actually
required before you are put in charge of handling the agency of a
10,000 teu behemoth containership.
It was probably at that stage I realised I
was working for the wrong company; good shipping companies not only
recognise the ICS qualification, but also encourage their staff to
take the exams.
The ICS examination is the only globally
recognised shipping qualification and the ICS is the only
internationally recognised professional body in the maritime
I found this to be particularly true when
I travelled extensively abroad on business and it is the reason
why, after decades of UK-based executive meetings, it was decided a
few years back to hold the annual meeting of the Controlling
Council - the ICS's governing body - in the Asian shipping hub,
The Singapore CC meeting and connected
seminars were very successful and really proved beyond doubt how
international the ICS has become and how highly regarded the
qualification is in the shipping industry.
In 2011, the CC was held in Chennai and
once again the interest was overwhelming, with all the regional and
Indian national newspapers comprehensively covering the
This year, the CC moves to Vancouver in
late September and, as the member representing the East Anglia
branch, I will join more than 30 of my FICS colleagues from around
the world to tackle the comprehensive agenda compiled by ICS
director Julie Lithgow.
Many important issues will be debated in
Vancouver, but there is none more important than the official
election to membership of newly qualified students.
It is a qualification I have always been
proud of and Capt Roberts might have grudgingly admitted that I
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