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Breakbulk February 2020

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6 The Journal of Commerce | Februar y 2020 Vessel Chartering Breakbulk & Project Cargo VESSEL CHARTERING PRESENTS new conundrums every day for those responsible for matching interna- tional breakbulk and project cargoes, ships, voyages, and dates. The question of how carriers get that work done, including how they arrive at a given rate, is one outsiders and clients can find exasperatingly opaque. At least some of that opacity lies in the shifting complexity of char- tering — an activity that Raymond Fisch, a senior vice president with ocean carrier BBC Chartering at its Leer, Germany, headquarters, has called "three-dimensional Tetris." At its core, "chartering" simply refers to a person or business contracting for cargo space with a ship operator. But with project and breakbulk cargo, chartering is rarely that simple. "There's only a small group of people in the world with this exper- tise," Amanda Coughlin, a senior chartering broker with ocean carrier BBC Chartering, told The Journal of Commerce. "It's not just the outbound cargo. You have to consider the load ports and other requirements, too." and all about price," he said. To provide quotes to potential customers, the chartering team makes dozens of calculations every day, figuring voyage times, port costs, bunker costs, etc. They use automated calculators and programs and back up these calculations by hand, so errors will be caught. "Someone lacking experience could use the program to figure a voyage from Houston to Antwerp, for exam- ple, and come up with completely wrong prices," Jacquet said. Jacquet is responsible for the group overall, making sure the right ships are available in the right places. "He keeps an eye on what the ships are doing while we tend to the details. We interact as we need to and get the ships fed with freight," Irish said. "It's a group effort." All ship assignments for the Houston region — tramp, liner, and semi-liner — are made from the chartering desk under the guidance of Jacquet. BBC operates a fleet of approxi- mately 170 multipurpose/heavy-lift (MPV/HL) ships ranging in dead- weight tonnage (dwt) from 4,320 to 56,800. Most of its ships fall The morning bell First thing in the morning, BBC's Houston chartering desk — literally, eight or nine desks pushed together to make one long rectangle; figuratively, the team that handles Houston's chartering inquiries — wades into the 800 or so emails that arrived in their shared inbox over- night. As senior chartering broker Barry Irish puts it, the desk is "the funnel," routing emails to engi- neering, port captains, operations, documentation, and sales. Some 200 to 300 will be specifically for the chartering desk; those that need immediate action go into the shared quote folder. BBC's fleet is assigned based on cargo, said chartering director Robert Jacquet. "It's all spot business, and all about matching ships and heavy-lift capacity within a time window. BBC is very much oriented towards spot, BBC Chartering/Lilian Kalmus

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