Bulker brokers tipped to survive digital 'cull'

Potential job losses to computers run to less than 100, Alphabulk calculates.

Shipbrokers can breathe a sigh of relief, according to some smart number crunching from the team at Alphabulk.

Computers are not about to take your jobs – or at least not most of them.

BHP’s move to fix first iron ore and now a coal cargo via an online platform has led some to suggest that the growth of e-portals would induce a cull of physical brokers.

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Testing the hypothesis, Alphabulk calculates that the major broking firms have a staff of 4,177 people.

Of those, it suggests over 800 are at Clarksons Platou, with SSY and BRS boasting over 300 brokers each.

Braemar ACM, Howe Robinson and Maersk Broker are next on the Alphabulk list, with over 200 each, while Fearnleys has over 150 brokers.

However, with dry bulk chartering leading the move online, only a small portion of the overall broking workforce needs to be looking over their shoulders, Alphabulk suggests.

It calculates that 1,110 brokers work at the major shops in dry bulk.

Clarksons is again top of the pile with a dry staff of almost 250, ahead of SSY and BRS with over 100 each, the report says.

Of those, Alphabulk estimates around 220 brokers globally are focused on the capesize market.

“Let us further assume that ultimately a third of the capesize fixtures will end up being done online, theoretically making a third of the capesize brokers potentially redundant,” the report said.

“This means the potential ‘cull’ mentioned above would involve around 70 brokers probably over a period of three to five years, de-pending how fast the e-fixing craze spreads to shipping,” the report said.

“And finally, if e-fixing becomes the norm, it is highly likely that shipbrokers—both the firms and the individuals - will be able to re-invent themselves and will still have a role in this new environment, albeit a different one.”