Types of Membership

Membership of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers means much more than the initials after your name. As the largest network of professional shipbrokers, managers and agents, ICS membership is internationally recognised as a mark of professionalism in the shipping industry.

Membership categories are listed below. The associated links will provide you with detailed information regarding each category of membership including specific entry requirements.


Member of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers

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The Need for a Professional Body

It is not possible to pinpoint the moment when the desire for an institute of shipbrokers took hold. But by courtesy of correspondence which took place in the pages of the shipping magazine Fairplay, it is possible to trace an early printed paper which seems to have triggered concerted action for it.  ‘Reciprocity and the Shipbroker’, written by David Garbutt Pinkney of D G Pinkney & Co, a shipbroker and a member of the Baltic Exchange, was printed in Fairplay on 1 September 1910.

In it Pinkney observed:

‘During my thirty years’ active membership of the “Baltic” I have witnessed, with feelings of dismay, the gradual decadence of the professional shipbroker, owing to circumstances entirely beyond his control.  This change is due to two principal causes, namely the bugbear of reciprocity and the lack of any attempt at combination amongst shipbrokers themselves for their protection’.

At this time there was hardly a profession which does not have the protection of an Institute or a Society, protecting them not only in regard of remuneration and status but also in the regulation of conditions under which they shall conduct their business.

Pinkney’s view was that it would be a boon for a young man to be able to take ‘a definite course of study prescribed by an “Institute of Shipbrokers”, and ultimately become an Associate or a Fellow of such a corporation.

The reactions to Pinkney’s suggestion of an institute were decidedly positive. Percy Harley, a shipbroker who remained committed to the cause of the Institute right through to the 1930s, remarked that ‘the immensity and importance of the shipbroking trade is so vast that anything to improve the status and calibre of the broker would be a step in the right direction, and since Mr. Pinkney’s idea is for that end it deserves every attention.’

The First Meeting

Whether it was a direct result of Pinkney’s public stance or behind the scenes discussions, there was an informal meeting on 20 October 1910 at the Baltic Exchange’s ‘large and commodious building’ at 24-28 St Mary Axe. That this meeting approves the formation of a Shipbrokers’ Institute and that the gentlemen present at this meeting form themselves into a Provisional Committee for the purpose of formulating a scheme and for calling a full meeting of London Shipbrokers to further discuss the question. All the attendees signed the list of those who would be the first to join the new Institute.

A Home at the Baltic Exchange

In 1911, James Arbuckle Findlay was asked to become the new Institute’s first Honorary Secretary as well as being the Baltic Exchange’s Secretary:  he was happy to accept and remained in both posts until he retired in 1932.  It seems that the Institute’s administration was therefore handled from Findlay’s office at the Baltic Exchange; in 1926 it took an office of its own in the building, with a clerk in attendance. Findlay was, by many accounts, a tyrannical sort of a chap, with a reputation for scaring young and unseasoned brokers; however, he was also credited with giving the Baltic Exchange prestige and vitality, qualities which he undoubtedly also brought to the new Institute.


The Institute of Shipbrokers received its certificate of incorporation from the UK government’s Board of Trade in 1913. A celebratory inaugural meeting was held in splendid style at London’s then famous Cecil Hotel, the place to be seen at the time.  Thomas Devitt described the formal objectives of the new Institute at the launch:

  • To provide for the better definition and protection of the profession or business of shipbroker by a system of examination, and the issue of certificates of the results of the examinations.

  • To protect and promote by co-operation the general welfare and interest of the business of shipbrokers in the United Kingdom.

  • To discuss, consider, and report upon subjects of interest to shipbrokers, and to communicate thereon with Chambers of Commerce and other public bodies.

  • To consider all questions affecting the interests of persons engaged in the business of shipbrokers or on other trades, businesses or commercial interests connected therewith, and to take such action as may be necessary to promote all such interests.

There is much room for debate in the definition of a shipbroker’s role, given that the work is so varied, changing according to the area of shipping business on which the broker operates and including the chartering as well as sale and purchase of ships.

In Devitt’s view,

‘… the shipbroker was born and not made, as he had to possess so many qualifications, and above all had to be a man of action and capable of holding the balance between his clients effectively and intelligently’.

The Launch

Howard Houlder, a shipbroker with his own firm of the same name, asked to give a full address to mark the Institute’s formal launch, averred that the shipbroker must be ‘diligent and painstaking, and careful in carrying out the instructions of his principal’. For him, the formation of the Institute meant that the work of a broker should ‘be lifted from a mere haphazard trade into the dignity of a profession’.  Houlder remarked that the skilful broker gives his advice more by suggesting than otherwise, so that when the decision is arrived at it is due not to the skill of the broker, but to the wisdom of the owner who arrives at the decision’. He must also know everything about the crops of the world: ‘the cereal and vegetable crops of every kind that are grown, when and where they are shipped to, the average crops every year, where everything is produced and the markets of the world.  He must have a first class knowledge of geography, and must know the relative specific gravities of the various classes of merchandise, raw material, etc, as well as be in touch with the world’s financial position.’

Post World War One

Looking back some twelve years after the First World War, Howard Houlder reflected that: ‘it is not too much to say that had there been no institute then, to formulate and press the shipbrokers’ requests for equitable consideration, the attention which was given by the authorities would not have been made to representations made by individuals.’ Houlder also said that the Institute’s efforts during the First World War had the positive result that ‘many brokers who previously had stood aloof from the Institute became members of it’. It was the aim to provide for better definition and protection of the profession or business of shipbrokers by a system of examination and the issue of certificates which convinced the Privy Council that the Institute was a serious professional body and so on 21st January 1920 it was announced that “by the special grace and certain knowledge of His Majesty King George V” it was incorporated by Royal Charter and would henceforth be known as the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers.

The Royal Charter

The Royal Charter required the Institute not only to provide a proper education for its members and set examinations, it also insists upon a system of discipline so that any member acting in a discreditable manner would be censured, suspended or even expelled; in the latter case details may be published without any fear of legal action. That is, of course, still the case and although action by the Discipline Committee is infrequently needed, the committee members never shrink from their duty. Much of Britain’s trade was with member countries of the Commonwealth and these distant places attracted many expatriates to emigrate and continue their shipbroking in such places as Hong Kong, South Africa, British Columbia in Canada. Their desire to maintain their membership of the Institute prompted them to open local branches. Fortunately this had been foreseen when the Charter was drafted so that membership was open to anyone in the British Commonwealth as well as the United Kingdom.

After the Second World War

The rapid development in trade and shipping following the end of the Second World War resulted in shipbrokers becoming specialised. No longer “jacks of all trades” but masters of dry cargo chartering, or tanker chartering or ship sale & purchase or port agency. Many companies which previously only handled tramps or tankers, responded to the demands for agents made by the rapidly expanding number of national shipping lines, and so Liner Agency became an important branch of shipbroking.

In order to cope with the high degree of specialisation in shipping business, the Institute eventually modularised its examination syllabus and sub-divided shipbroking into six “disciplines”; the sixth was added because of the demand to extend our activities to take in ship operation and management.

History of the ICS in Ireland

On the 20th September 1974, thirty-five members of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers met at the Clarence Hotel on Wellington quay in Dublin. The meeting was convened by Stephen Cleary who had been a driving force to form a separate branch of the Institute in Ireland – and this was to become its inaugural meeting. It was considered essential to form an Irish branch so that members could, for the first time, make known their activities particular to Ireland and also to allow representation on the controlling council which manages the Institute’s worldwide affairs.

The institutes first officers and the committee were:

  • Ray Burke – Chairman

  • Eddy O’Regan –Vice chairman

  • Freddy Fewell – Hon Secretary / Treasurer

  • Stephen Clery – Committee member

  • John Dundon – Committee member

  • John Hannigan – Committee member

  • Bill Lynch – Committee member

  • Paddy Monaghan – Committee member

  • Gordon McMillan – Committee member

Celebrating 40 years

In 2014 we celebrated 40 years of ICS Ireland. During this period we have actively promoted education within the shipping industry and continue to offer lecturers at DCU to facilitate those that undertake the Institutes examinations. Our educational programmes have resulted in an increase in students and pass rates during this period. It is our belief that by offering a relevant and topical educational package we will help maintain and enhance the high level of standards within the Irish shipping industry.

To celebrate this achievement, the Institute commissioned a book “Course and Speed made Good” where the author (Gordon McMillan), explores the professional careers of a broad cross-section of the national membership and in the process discovers an enormous diversity of interests within the Shipbroking profession. Intermediary activities that range across a spectrum of commercial sectors including chartering; sale & purchase; ship finance; ship management; off-shore; port operations; port agency; liner agency; transport management; freight forwarding; marine insurance and maritime law, so many disciplines covering cargo and passenger transportation by land, sea and air. Through the members’ stories, the narrative conveys a sense of the legacy of professional education and training in the promotion of good practice, in an industry which like the sea is a world in motion, ceaselessly changing and rendered magical by its evolving potential for worthwhile endeavour. The influence of rapidly changing market forces and economic circumstances features as a backdrop in a time-line perspective consisting of nine distinctively different Irish government terms of office.


The Institute represents all aspects of the shipping business and includes in its membership not only shipbrokers but shipowners, charterers, agents, forwarders and other shipping professionals. It is dedicated to the setting and maintenance of the highest standards in international transport and shipping business. Individual professional membership of the Institute is gained by candidates passing the Qualifying Examinations. Promotion to Fellowship permits the person to be described as a Chartered Shipbroker and is granted to those of seniority and influence in the world of shipping and international transport.

Today the Institute has a record (x) number of students and is looking forward to the next forty years as we continue to steam on ahead.