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Recognition of the profession of ship's agent



Amal Louis, president of the Marseille-Fos Ship's Agents' Association (AACN) and vice-president of the Regular Lines Commission at the French ship's agents' association AMCF.
Amal Louis, president of the Marseille-Fos Ship's Agents' Association (AACN) and vice-president of the Regular Lines Commission at the French ship's agents' association AMCF.
The job of the ship's agent is to represent the shipping company in a port and, in a commercial role, to find cargoes for the company's ships, a job that requires to fulfil several functions. A vital element in ensuring port calls go smoothly, the role of the ship's agent is recognized by all. However, in light of the new security procedures being implemented to combat the threat of terrorism, it may be time to regulate entry to the profession of ship's agent. 

Port security, for its part, has been subject to various regulations since 2001, with international regulations such as ECS/ICS and the ISPS Code transposed into national and local laws. 

In such a context, it can appear surprising that, in France, the profession of ship's agent is not regulated, entry being open to anybody and everybody. 

"We would like to see our profession regulated. Several initiatives to that effect have already been put forward to the authorities at the national level and in the main French ports regarding entry criteria for the profession. Proven expertise, a thorough knowledge of port procedures, security regulations and the IMDG Code are required and must be acknowledged," argues Amal Louis, president of the Marseille-Fos Ship's Agents' Association (AACN) and vice-president of the Regular Lines Commission at the French ship's agents' association AMCF.  

Would this entail formal qualifications, proof of good morals, experience? The fact remains that, with better regulation and professionalization, the agent's image would be enhanced, especially in his or her dealings with other port professionals and the authorities, including customs. 

"The agent is the main contact for the pilots service prior to the vessel's arrival. In fact, the first time a pilot speaks to a ship's captain is when he steps aboard. But, by then, a lot of the work has already been done by the ship's agent and pilot working together, details including which berth is best suited to the vessel's characteristics, berthing constraints etc.," points out Jean-Philippe Salducci, president of the Marseille-Fos Pilot Station and the Union Maritime et Fluviale de Marseille-Fos shipping federation. 

"For harbourmasters, the ship's agent is one of the entities involved in preparing a vessel's port call, alongside the terminal operator and the ship services providers," says Franck Meyronin, harbourmaster at Marseille's Western Docks. 

As part of its mission to combat trafficking, the customs service intervenes increasingly promptly to avoid losing track of consignments on arrival. "We wait until the ship docks. The goods we want to inspect are then blocked in the AP+ system (CCS : cargo community system). The presence of the agent at the physical inspection of the container is essential to vouch for the procedure's proper application," points out Bruno Ligiot, director of customs and head of the Marseille-Fos division. 

"The ship's agent's role is in fact recognized by the Neptune and AP+ port community systems. The agents take part in workshops to develop the new Ci5 cargo community system, since it displays all the information relating to a ship's port call. Among other things, the agent must ensure the ship obeys all the SOLAS rules, in the best interests of the shipping company," says Marie-Hélène Pasquier, MGI’s member of the Executive Board.

It should also be noted that the definition of the ship's agent will be included in the IMO's FAL Convention as from 1st January, 2018. 

Aziz Mantrach, president of the APRAM.
Aziz Mantrach, president of the APRAM.

Aziz Mantrach


"Up until 2011, anyone in Morocco could call him or herself a ship's agent." 


Aziz Mantrach is president of the Moroccan ship's agents' and shipbrokers' federation APRAM, president-designate of the FONASBA and managing director of Transports Marocains. He outlines the recent moves in Morocco to professionalise the sector. 

Up until 2011, anyone in Morocco could call him or herself a ship's agent. We worked with the supervising ministry to set up conditions for entry into the profession, but without creating a monopoly. Since 2012, to become a ship's agent in Morocco, a person needs a diploma equivalent to 4 years' studies after the baccalaureate, five years' experience with a shipping company or port operator, a clean record and to pass an exam. We now have 24 qualified agents.  


Eric Banel, general representative of Armateurs de France
Eric Banel, general representative of Armateurs de France

Eric Banel, general representative of Armateurs de France


"In these tense times, the competence of the agent needs to be recognized"


In a tense global context, the demands placed on the ship's agent by the authorities and harbourmaster's offices relating to safety and security are increasing. The agent's competence and qualifications need to be fully recognized. Today, the fact that "anybody" in France or in many other European countries can call him or herself a ship's agent is at odds with the vital role ship's agents play alongside us. A freight forwarder needs to hold a diploma or certificate of competence vouching for their know-how. Why isn't this the case for ship's agents? 





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