What is the role of a shipping agent?


We were set to meet at 1:30. At 10:30, Marc Latour emailed me: “Could we push it back to 3:00? Just found out I have to inspect a ship’s hold at 2:00 with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.”

A shipping agent’s life is definitely full of the unexpected. In 41 years, Marc Latour has seen it all. And he still loves his job!

For the last 32 years, he has been a shipping agent for Fednav International, the shipping agency owned by the international shipping company Fednav, founded and headquartered in Montreal. Fednav is Canada’s largest dry-bulk shipowning and chartering group, with offices all over the world.

Marc Latour is a shipping agent for Fednav International

The shipping agent’s role is to ensure that everything goes well when a vessel approaches a port for a stopover to unload and load cargo in its holds. There’s a lot to check out there! As Marc Latour put it, laughing, “We are specialists in finding solutions.”

For example, it’s shipping agents who check that a vessel has the right dimensions to pass under the bridges that span the St. Lawrence Seaway. Plus they are responsible for the vessel’s compliance with the regulations in force in ports and shipping lanes. Take the day of our meeting: Marc Latour supervised the inspection of the holds of a ship carrying grain to certify its safety.  
They are also the ones you call when a ship docked at port needs drinking water and when Urgence Marine Inc. should be contacted to fill up on oil or to pick up the garbage the crew accumulated during three weeks at sea.


Furthermore, shipping agents contact Canada Border Services Agency to help clear goods. And they organize tugboat services on the arrival and departure of vessels. They also arrange the repatriation by plane of crews of seafarers who, after four months of uninterrupted sailing are ready to return home, in most cases to India or the Philippines.

Fednav Agency covers the ports of Montreal, Trois-Rivières, Contrecoeur, Sorel and Côte Sainte-Catherine. “There are three of us shipping agents on the road. I do 40,000 km a year!” said Marc Latour.

The toughest thing is the schedules, he added. Transportation by ship never stops and service must be provided 24/7 every day of the year.
“You’re often there alone at night and you have to make decisions that involve serious costs. That can be stressful. You have to trust your judgment. With experience, it’s not as tough.”

But the joy he gets from his job is worth all these difficulties. “I’m someone who travels without going anywhere!!! People from other countries come to me. I meet people from all over the world and we talk about everything. I tell them about my country and they tell me about theirs. Two years ago, I went to Goa, India after hearing about it from my Indian friends. It was fantastic!”

Learn more about the job of shipping agent at