I’ve just resumed working on this vessel agency handbook after a lengthy hiatus concentrating on my (more fun to write) first science fiction novel. And as I progress I will periodically post excerpts for those rare few souls interested. Please note these aren’t in finished form. Those posted here will be further edited for readability and content–a most tedious but necessary process.
I’ve learned much about writing and publishing over the past five years, so have found that setting and making deadlines is as important in writing as it is in handling a ship’s port call. Thus target date for official publication of Water Clerk is March 15, 2020… the “Ides of March” (for those liking literary drama).
In the meantime, I shall welcome comments, critiques, and questions regarding the excerpts posted here. Constructive dialogue can only benefit the project . With no further ado, below find the Introduction and the Table of Contents for Part One….
WATER CLERK: Introduction
The purpose of this book is to provide not just an understanding of a vessel agent’s role, but an introduction to the basics of agency operations and logistics, and—finally—a better understanding of the problems of agency management. It is a tutorial of the “hows” and “whys.”
A newcomer to this industry is typically thrust immediately into situations where their awareness and independent judgement are as important to their survival and success as their ability to memorize procedures and accurately complete paperwork. The hand-holding period where the more experienced agent shows how certain things are done… is invariably short. If you are new, very soon you will be on your own. That is the typical pace.
Some newcomers thrive on the novelty of the business, the variety of new responsibilities, the pace, the odd hours, and the early opportunity to be entrusted to work on their own. They feel invigorated. Many others will find these same conditions only stressful. Everyone are gaited differently. It may not be right for everybody, but the marine industry tends to grow on you.
Today’s vessel agents need to learn patience and a myriad of other skills—including, ironically, when not to be patient. The better your personal knowledge and your understanding of how things work, the better you will be able to react, respond, and grow into your job. And the more valuable you will make yourself to both your customers and your company.
The title of this book, “Water Clerk”, is a diminutive label a close friend and ex-sea captain once joked was the common term for vessel agents in Europe. It deliberately suggests an unimportant role.
However, the truth is that a vessel agent can have a greater impact upon the costs, the success, or the failure of a port call than any other player. It is up to you to remember that the only way your role as a ship agent will ever be unimportant, is if you personally make it unimportant. If you learn your trade and accept the responsibilities it entails, you will become the knowledgeable and dedicated ship agent your customers and your company needs.
Note: As I put together this handbook, I was faced with two difficulties. The first was how best to organize the material into a natural progression, where readers could assimilate the concepts first, then consolidate that knowledge by seeing actual practices. The second difficulty was determining how to cover the incredibly dull basic materials without readers committing suicide or avowing to become an accountant instead—two roughly equal choices.
However, it is extremely important the terminology provided is clear and accurate, because many are legal concepts. And in the maritime community, huge sums of money can ride on getting details right.
So I came to the following compromise—to issue this hazardous warning:
Be advised that materials in sections Getting Acquainted, Types of Agency Services, and Roles of an Agent are, at points, both mind-numbingly boring yet absolutely essential to learn.
I have added comments, where possible, to break the bleak monotony. However, I recommend—if getting bored to tears or passing into REM sleep—temporarily jump ahead to the section Getting Things Done.