A career in the maritime trades does not require actually working at sea, or on any body of water for that matter. Ships, both large and small, eventually make their way to a port, and when they do, often a port agent is ready to assist them in multiple ways. Because the role of a port agent, sometimes referred to as a shipping agent, is so varied, it requires the skills of a well-rounded individual.
Assist with Berthing
The duties of a port agent begin by locating and assisting boats in mooring in the appropriate berths, or slips. Agents may determine this by the boat's size; projected length of stay; and loading and unloading requirements, if any. Since port agents can work in ports that service large liners and ships, as well as personal craft, the specifics will vary. Large boats may require tugs, which the port agent will arrange. Regardless of the port, ensuring the orderly process of mooring is the responsibility of the port agent.
A port agent is usually responsible for determining what, if any, needs the ship has prior to setting sail again. A ship's needs may involve restocking provisions, making various repairs and sometimes assisting with the coordination of loading and unloading cargo. The port agent will contact the appropriate repair professionals and make all necessary arrangements. If the crew has travel needs while in port, then the port agent is responsible for accommodating them.
For larger ports of call, particularly those serving international and military vessels, a port agent may have managerial responsibilities as well. Port agents are often responsible for managing the efforts of record clerks and administrative professionals in securing, tracking and recording of needed paperwork, facilitating the proper functions of the port agent.
Preparation of Documents
While most harbours require the completion of documentation such as customs paperwork, harbour services documents and boat inspection reports, international ports of call have even more regulatory requirements. It is the role of the port agent to prepare and ensure the proper completion of documents for boat inspections, all the regulatory paperwork to adhere to port and governmental regulations, and billing and moorage fee papers.
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