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Promoting professionalism in commercial shipping

Promoting professionalism in commercial shipping


Glenn Murphy FICS

Glenn Murphy

On the 24th October 2018 Glenn was elected as Chairman of the Irish Branch of the Institute. He takes on the role with a 30 year career dedicated to the shipping business, predominately working as a shipbroker but he will also be known to many people in Ireland for his previous role as The Director of the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO). He left that position in 2014 to start his own shipbroking firm based in Dublin.

He is a Masters graduate of Trinity College Dublin in Economics and Politics whilst also holding other qualifications in business studies. He has lectured in the Economics and International Trade module as part of the Institutes college program since it began in 2007.

Gordon McMillan spoke with Glenn about his career which is included in the history of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers in Ireland 1974-2014 “Course and Speed Made Good”. We have taken a short extract from the book to profile his career in the shipbroking business.

Eldest of five children, two boys and three girls, Glenn’s family has a deep-rooted association with Dublin port, stretching back over many generations. ‘An unbroken tradition on my mother and father’s side, both my great-grandfathers were dock-workers and stevedores in Dublin port, on either side of the river, at the East Wall or, more often than not, on this side of the city around Ringsend. We can even trace the family beyond that, to a time in the early 19th century, when my ancestors were in business as shipbuilders in Wexford,’ he slowly adds on reflection.

‘So I started work in Dun Laoghaire with a small stevedoring and ship agency company, ‘It was a great apprenticeship, in terms of on-the-job training. Spending time in the holds with the dockers, learning how goods are stowed and also becoming familiar, first hand, with the agency side of the business, you get to understand the pressures that people are under when ships are in port. You pick up shipping language, good and bad. I think it provided a superb foundation for me in terms of progressing to become a chartered ship-broker,’ Glenn declares affectionately.
The offices in Dun Laoghaire were shared by a subsidiary of Leinster Shipping Company and it was through this close association that two and a half years later he left Dun Laoghaire and came to work for their parent company in Dublin, in the year 1990.
‘At that point, I had started chartering ships, the broker inside me wanted out! I was actively collecting data on vessels coming in, I knew who the owners were and the types of ships best suited to the Irish market. In that way I was able to build up a good tonnage portfolio and a contact network of people familiar to me in the shipping business. I remember the very first ship that I chartered, the Gustav Erikson owned Fisko, fixed for a voyage from Dun Laoghaire to Alexandria with a cargo of 1100 tons of boxed beef, at a freight rate of US$75 per ton! I was only able to secure that fixture due to the fact that the broker who normally handled that account was on holidays. It was my first foot on the ship-broking ladder and I went on from there,’ says Glenn with a vigorous nod by way of emphasis. During the period of his employment with Leinster Shipping, Glenn spent much of his time in the company’s London office, where he teamed-up with their Baltic Exchange broker.

‘Loyalty is a strong facet of this profession. Provided that you consistently serve somebody well and there is professional respect that is mutual, the relationship can last a lifetime. Successful ship-owners and charterers, people who understand the ethical principles of the business, recognise a good product and tend not to forget it. Those that don’t, that cut you out, are never worth keeping. I would never cry over dropping an account like that. You will always end up losing at some point in time, so you are better off losing early. I try and build accounts that you can value on the basis of what you offer them on merit. They are always going to be good counter-parties, that are not going to embarrass you or themselves. Principals that are going to do everything that they have signed up to do in the contract and as a broker – it’s our job to bring those people through,’ Glenn declares with feeling.

Glenn left Leinster Shipping Company in 1995 and went to work for a commodity trading group in London. They carried out various types of trade but were predominantly involved in trading refrigerated (reefer) and bulk food products. He was eventually promoted to Managing Director of the companies shipping division where he was responsible for all the groups S&P and chartering in and out of their fleet requirements.

He left the London to return to Dublin in 2000 to take on the role of the Director of the newly created Irish Maritime Development Office. ‘My appointment was to an entirely new position. ‘I was the first employee but found myself as sole executive, working with a twenty person advisory group that had been appointed by the Minister. It was headed up by Padraig White, ex CEO of the Industrial Development Authority. The advisory group were political appointees but more or less nominated representatives from various industry groups and companies with maritime connections, including banks, accountancy firms, law practices, ship-owners, agents and brokers, plus, of course, officials from the Departments of Finance, the Marine and Taoiseach’s office. It was a good combination,’ Glenn explains.

I started with a blank sheet of paper and set out formulating a scheme of things with the Irish Industry, to try and devise an innovative product that would be a catalyst for change. The main theme that emerged from that think-tank process was the tonnage tax. The tonnage tax is a special tax measure for Irish-based shipping fleets. It sits within the normal corporation tax structure but earnings are taxed on notional profit, based on a ship’s tonnage. It equates to an effective tax rate of between one and three percent.

In 2013, the IMDO had successfully completed the first ten-year cycle of tonnage tax, the minimum period for which companies elect to participate. The model is proven. It has stood the test of time. Every company that signed up has stayed in the system and moreover many have expanded. It has done exactly what was promised on day one.‘It should not be forgotten that, in relation to international shipping, we are dealing with an industry that is institutionalised, slow to move, set in its ways and prefers dealing in places with which it is familiar. Just saying that we’re an island nation with a long maritime tradition doesn’t wash any more. There are plenty of those places around the world. We need to be able to bring something fresh and innovative to the table with an ongoing singleness of purpose. To that end we set up a platform and created a minimum entry point that should endure. Equally important, we have been able to convince government that Ireland is on course to become an international shipping centre in the future. That message is starting to carry conviction overseas,’ Glenn concludes with a broad smile.

He is back in business as a chartering and sale & purchase broker, since the spring of 2014. ‘I have taken the tools back out of the locker and they are still shiny. I have never lost touch with the industry and have always maintained my close contacts,’ he says. Glenn’s company, Irish Shipbrokers & Chartering Ltd, are housed in a bright, airy office, from which he should never fall out of time on firm broking negotiations, for outside the window beside his desk looms a giant clock-face set in the copper-green cupola, atop the Morrison Chambers at the corner of Dawson Street. Wandering together around his office, admiring the gallery of mounted ship photographs, Glenn describes their significance to him. ‘You always remember the first. If you ask any broker, they will always remember their first deals. I remember well the first ship that I chartered and also the first ship that I sold. It was a ship called the Sata Maru, sold to Irish interests. I remember the first new-building that I chartered for her maiden voyage, the Nordland Saga. The first en bloc sale of more than one ship, when I sold six ships to Greeks from Gustav Erikson’s fleet, including time-charter back. My first ship sale for scrap/demolition, the Frederick Chopin here, together with the two fishing vessels secured on either side of her,’ he says, pointing to a picture of three vessels moored in the Shetland Isles. ‘This was all before I had reached the age of twenty-six. Looking back now they appear noteworthy, although that didn’t occur to me at the time. I was doing deals then that I would be happy doing today,’ he exclaims, although listening to his account of fixtures concluded by his company to date, one gets the impression that he is doing well and has got off to a flying start once again.

(Copies of “Course and Speed Made Good” are available for sale from the Institute)