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Sovereign Shipping: Shipbroking in the digital era

Singapore-based shipbroking firm Sovereign Shipping is going through its own digital transformation, developing an S&P app.

Wong Hong Lee, managing director, believes the shipbroking sector is evolving with the times like the rest of the maritime industry. The downturn in shipping has forced many shipowners to relook at their business relationships with brokers, he says.

“Some owners have eliminated the shipbroking intermediary and gone directly to the shipyards or took ownership to develop relationships with clients to buy and sell their ships. For those owners who charter repeated shipments on standard terms, they have also bypassed shipbrokers to handle such transactions on their own. Shipbrokers have thus to build on their technical expertise, widen their networks and expand service offerings to provide added value to their clients,” Wong says.

Wong reckons that smaller shipbroking firms are particularly under threat by market consolidation and they have difficulty attracting and retaining talent.

“It seems to be the way to go – to build up a bigger team with global operations, explore ways to harness technology to update the archaic data mining methods which many shipbrokers use – so as to be better positioned when the market recovers,” Wong says.

In August, the company launched a mobile application platform for ship sales and purchase. The application is available in both iOS and Android versions.

Having been in the shipbroking industry for some 15 years, Wong hopes to share the app with all involved in vessel S&P globally, so that they can benefit from increased work productivity and use their time more effectively, providing expertise and developing strong relationships with shipowners, shipyards and everyone in between.

Wong reckons one of the major challenges in the shipbroking sector is to attract self-motivated people with the right mindset and high EQ. Skilled expertise is hard to come by and take many years to groom, he says.

In Wong’s opinion, to be a successful and well respected shipbroker, one must be willing to invest the time and effort – not only into building up a strong network of contacts and developing their trust so as to be called upon for expert advice. It is thus important to amass well-rounded maritime knowledge and to keep abreast of the latest happenings affecting the industry.

“With that knowledge, shipbrokers should aim to extend their services beyond just regular shipbroking so that shipowners can appreciate the benefit of engaging brokers to handle their deal in a seamless transaction,” Wong says.

According to Wong, the second phase of the app will be rolled out in a year’s time and aims to be a game changer for the whole S&P market.

For the near future, Wong hopes to see more jobs related to digitalising the maritime industry being created and profiled. He also reveals that another project of the company could look into blockchain technology for shipping assets, linking shipyard, shipbroking, chartering, shipowning with financial institutions for global rollout.


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