This week in Tradewinds’ “Quotes of the week”, Anders Zorn of Golden Ocean touched a subject no one talks about, but everyone knows. How desperate brokers are manipulating low educated chartering people into accepting much lower rates. He pointed that the broker houses, due to their current sizes, have transformed themselves in the sorts focus on booking, don't focus on the principal. I see it as the Wolves of Wall street movie gone wrong (my poetic allowance to his comments) or maybe a a re-run of Jerry Maguire. While Tradewinds is somehow making fun – as it does sounds funny – no one has been so close to the truth and he had the guts to spit it out.
normally I receive calls or "skypes" from fifteen different brokers with the same accounts, very few with the real cargo, most of them with the usual operators. Sometimes they work in the same broker shop. The all calling for the their one-off illusive off-market orders. The clever chartering guy would have known the off market orders are just an operator trying to operate in a market cargo, an order a broker is fishing so he try his “close-friend” operator to bite a for market cargo or the operator is actually working on his own stem. Because no one talks to each other anymore and hides behind skype, real “Charteringmanship” is disappearing. So real conversations where one can really understand what is going are becoming less and less a practise of our business. Decision making chartering guys are mislead into making decisions on single skype lines. Gut feeling about the market or how to manage the brokers expectations? no, that is not allowed. I have to fix my ship today for low money because I am too scare to fix when she is actually open in three weeks or make broker tells me it is the right decision. How can that be?
Today I had a broker telling me what to do with one of my boats. I told him to get out of my face with his stupid nonsense and later in the day I tried to call him again on another issue. He refused to talk to me – which I find strange: Someone with no responsibility – apart from linking the two parties – who initially offered me 9k for my boat and told me I was crazy to ask 12k (in the end his charterers clean fixed with me at 11.5k, fixture done during the week fifteen) gets offended when he is put in his place by a principal and gets offended I am not listening to “his” rate. What is going on folks? Do I as a principal have to bow to the rates imposed by the brokers and their feelings? What about my feelings when I have to bite the bullet and take a shitty rate? Get out of here!
One can ask any research department from a large broker’s house and they will confirm the cargo volumes on a worldwide basis are somehow stable, except for some geographic issues such as war/conflict like zones. We all know that there are, however, more ships floating then actual cargoes, which causes the in-balance in the supply / demand graph. But it doesn't mean we all have to operate below opex or operators to operate below opex – I do accept your argument that when the vessel is on time charter to an operator, owners will get their money independently the market. But for how long will they? We all know the rumors and if there's smoke, there is fire.
We have a new generation of non-shipping educated individuals who are very thirsty to book and performing, which we all like, but they are failing to understand their needs are irrelevant when the owners/operators they represent (sorry folks you don't represent your "cargo" owners when you talk to me, you also represent me when you are talking to your cargo owners) are under so much pressure. We do not need manipulative brokers, who sole purpose is to make their commission even if that means misleading weaker minded chartering guys into accepting lower rates. We need to re-think how we are looking at the deals in front of us.
It is time to Owners chartering professionals grow some thick skin and stop accepting what brokers tell us. Be a shipowner, don’t let yourself be manipulated by the hands of those thinking they know it all, when all they want is their commission. Lately I am having more fun fixing directly with actual cargo owners or ship owners, when I am dealing with brokers.
I see a a very friendly type of broker backed by large institutions at first they are friendly and seem interested in what you are developing, but they are not investing 500 million dollars in state of the art equipment, they don't care. They are not your friends, as your friends don’t treat you like a bitch. Markets are difficult, we all know that and we cannot enable brokers to take advantage of a pessimistic state of mind of the market.
We are owners and operators, let’s start behaving like that. Let’s be proud as our predecessors were, respect their legacy and write our own history. We know when everything seems to be dead in the water, we still hang on to it a little longer and make the best of it – on our terms!
It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light. (Aristotle Onassis)