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Navigation has existed as long as trade and commerce, and vice versa. Earlier, in the era of sailing ships, the shipowner also served as the shipmaster, who was responsible for procuring cargo, sailing the ship to her destination and handling all ship-related matters in the port. The shipmaster’s duties also included trading, that is, selling the cargo at the port of destination and procuring new cargo for the ship. And then sailing off to the next port.

An essential change took place in the 1800s along with the introduction of steam power. The higher speed and regularity of traffic created a need for shipowners to contract with co-operative partners in ports. This resulted in a network of agents that took over certain port routines, which had earlier been handled by the shipmaster.

The development of postal and, in particular, telegraphic services accelerated and facilitated communication and liaison, thus expanding the agents’ tasks. As trading became the responsibility of the agents, they received a new title, shipbroker. Shipbrokers’ work duties developed, already in the 1800s, into a comprehensive business featuring largely the same elements as today.

Shipbrokers in Finland

In Finland, there was a type of organised shipbroker activity already in the 1700s. In 1720, a decree was issued for all towns in the country to comply with. According to the decree, official shipbrokers were to broker contracts concerning ship sale and purchase, insurance, marine loans, charter, leasehold and freight. Shipbrokers were also entitled to receive a brokerage paid for their services.

In 1748, another decree was issued which stipulated that only licensed shipbrokers were allowed to practice clearance. The licence was granted by the magistrate upon application. In 1863, a decree was ratified on ship broking and clearance in Helsinki and Turku.

In 1920, the Finnish Shipbrokers Association was founded after the Swedish model. The Association would, among other things, issue clearance tariffs up to the mid-1990s.