Career Profile: Ship’s Agent
Before he heads to the office, the ship agent boards the vessel as it arrives in the port. He walks up a steep gangway with people from the federal government who work for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Transport Canada. As the latter inspects the ship, the agent finds the captain and assists him as he signs various documents that are required before the ship is allowed to enter the port.
It is the ship agent’s job to coordinate the arrival of all vessels that enter Canadian waters. He is thus a vital link between all the imports and exports that come in and out of the country.
Once back at the office, the agent performs a variety of duties. When a ship plans to arrive, the agent gathers information about the vessel such as: how many members are on the crew and where they are each from, how much the ship weighs and when it was built, and what kind of cargo it is carrying or picking up. He then sends the information to Canadian Customs and Immigration. When Customs clears the ship, it is free to enter Canadian waters.
However, a ship cannot enter Canadian ports until the federal public servants have inspected the entire ship and cleared it for loading or unloading its cargo. It is the ship agent’s role to coordinate with members of CFIA and Transport Canada. He also organizes – with the ship’s owners, charterers and stevedores – when and where the ship will be loaded with cargo.
The agent must also host the captain while he and his crew are anchored in the port. He brings the captain cash for the crew to use while they are anchored and he coordinates with ship chandlers who supply the crew with groceries and other necessary supplies. He also arranges for crew members to be picked up and taken to the airport when they are ready to return home if a new crew is taking over the ship.
The ship agent links Canadian ports to the rest of the world.
He coordinates much of the activity that sees that items like steel, sugar and electronics arrive safely in the country’s ports while grain, canola, lentils, yellow peas, barley, wheat, oats and other products are loaded into the vessels and shipped to places all over the world.