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Who are Boarding Agents and what are their functions?

Who are Boarding Agents and what are their functions?

The Boarding Agent, also known as Ship Agent, is the first point of contact for vessels arriving into the port. Boarding agents ensure smooth entry and departure of vessels, identify bottlenecks to propose improvements, and assist with their subsequent implementation.

Boarding Agents establish good relationships with the Ship Captain and Chief Engineer. They usually deal with paperwork and on-site work. Given the different arrival times of vessels, boarding agents work irregular hours and deal with unanticipated events and tight work schedules.

What type of experience and qualifications do Boarding Agents need?

Boarding agents must have experience in Port agency, chartering, logistics, and general experience in the maritime industry. 

They also have foundational knowledge of Port Operations and a Bachelor’s degree from Maritime Institutions or Academies.

What are the responsibilities of a Boarding Agent?

The main functions of a Boarding Agent include:

  • Determining availability and local port conditions at the time of estimated arrival of vessels. This data is to be communicated to ship captains. 
  • Determining Coast Guard, Customs, and general governmental rules and regulations and assisting with varying interpretations of government regulations as applied by terminals.
  • Providing ship captains pre-arrival lists of what is required for port entry depending on the specific circumstances of each port and prevailing conditions.
  • Assisting with ships’ crew lodgings, travel and transportation, and activities while in port as requested by the Principals, who may also be assisted with obtaining the various services needed by vessels while in port, such as medical services or food deliveries.
  • Contacting vendors, arranging service deliveries, and reporting back to the captains and other representatives.
  • Fulfilling ship boarding duties upon arrival and departure of assigned vessels, including meeting with captains and government officials (such as Customs and INS) concerning both crew and cargo, collecting all legally required documentation (such as cargo manifests and bills of lading), and gathering information on the times of service of bar pilots and river pilots as well as specific details concerning loading and unloading processes. This involves drafting the Statement of Facts (SoF) for each port call.
  • Preparing and ensuring the accuracy of pre-arrival documentation and visitor/vendor list for vessels and terminals, coordinating sailing arrangements, updating arrival details, gathering information to ensure the accuracy of daily cargo details, communicating daily updates to the captain, updating departure details, and sending departure messages and documents.
  • Seeking new methods to reduce operational costs and find efficiencies for the port office.
What type of technical skills do Boarding Agents need?

What type of technical skills do Boarding Agents need?

Boarding agents must comply with Data Integrity policies and use a company’s own operating system based on company operating procedures. They are responsible for performing accurate and timely updates of systems in order to have fresh data and present the best information to clients. Boarding agents are also responsible for using company timekeeping systems by maintaining accurate records for performance evaluation and operational efficiency purposes.

Finally, boarding agents are responsible for following internal and external procedures and ensuring compliance with ISS standards, customer standards and legal requirements

In essence, boarding agents constantly deal with external providers by maintaining relationships and liaising with clients, vendors, terminals, government officials, and port services on a daily basis. Boarding agents usually attend meetings with ports, terminals and others, and they are responsible for ensuring all shipping documentation is issued on time and accurately as well as suggesting improvements to existing processes to enhance service delivery.