A shipping agency or shipping agent is the designated person or agency held responsible for handling shipments and cargo, and the general interests of its customers, at ports and harbors worldwide, on behalf of ship owners, managers, and charterers. In some parts of the world, these agents are referred to as port agents or cargo brokers. There are several categories of shipping agents such as: port agents, liner agents, and own agencies, each rendering specific services depending on the shipping company they represent.
In other words, a ship agent is any person or company that carries out the functions of an agent. They can be in business as a ship agent, or they perform such functions as an adjunct to, or conjunction with, other activities such as ship owning or operating, providing cargo handling or similar.
Shipping agents will usually take care of all the regular routine tasks of a shipping company quickly and efficiently. They ensure that essential supplies, crew transfers, customs documentation, and waste declarations are all arranged with the port authorities without delay. Quite often, they also provide the shipping company with updates and reports on activities at the destination port so that shipping companies have real-time information available to them while goods are in transit.