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Shipbrokers follow traders to new instant messaging platform

Just over two weeks remain until major oil traders will cease using Yahoo Instant Messenger for good. Shipbrokers are following them to other instant messaging (IM) platforms – but confusion remains as to which one.

From August 5, Yahoo’s instant messaging service will allow users to “unsend” messages, which could provide problematic for transparency and compliance with energy market regulations.

The London Energy Brokers’ Association (LEBA), quoted in the FT, said the new Yahoo Messenger “encrypts all communications such that firms are unable to record this media in a straightforward manner”. LEBA said its members were “reviewing specialised third-party solutions”.

The tanker chartering departments at Trafigura, Vitol, ST Shipping (part of Glencore) and Koch have all circulated emails to shipbrokers, saying they will be shifting to ICE Instant Messaging. The IM platform has been launched by Intercontinental Exchange, the owner of London’s oil futures market, and currently has an estimated 11,000 users worldwide.

CME Group, which also runs an oil exchange, and Thomson Reuters have developed their own IM networks for traders and have agreed to connect the two. The two respective IM services are called Pivot and Eikon.

A recent survey by ICIS of 58 energy trading companies found 45% of crude oil/LNG traders intended to migrate to ICE IM, with 20% leaning towards WhatsApp, which is primarily known as a smartphone app but is also available as a desktop programme.

Shipbroking shops in London seem to be erring towards using the ICE IM, but most told Splash it was still under debate.

The tanker chartering department at EA Gibson is already making the transition to ICE IM. Alibra Shipping has already done so, but anticipates that trading will also be done via WhatsApp and Skype.

Simpson Spence Young’s (SSY) tanker desk said the topic was “still in discussion” but it would “probably” make the change to the ICE messaging service too.

Galbraiths’ tanker desk echoed this, but said many major shipowners are already using Skype. The broking shop is still looking at which IM platform it will start using after Yahoo and mentioned ICE IM, but intends to wait a couple of months to see who is using what.

On the shipowners’ side, the chartering manager for a Greek family-owned shipping company summed it up best, telling Splash: “Meh. I just use Skype.”

Clarksons declined to comment when approached for comment by Splash.



Holly Birkett

Holly is Splash's Online Editor and correspondent for the UK and Mediterranean. She has been a maritime journalist since 2010, and has written for and edited several trade publications. She is currently studying for membership of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers. In 2013, Holly won the Seahorse Club's Social Media Journalist of the Year award. She is currently based in London.
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