Albrook Free Zone, Panama

[email protected]

+507 6949-4193

Available 24/7

Ship chandler — all you need to know about it

The organization of sea transportation and logistics is a complex and time-consuming task. For efficient operations, a ship needs to have enough  provisions, spare parts and other supplies in order to make a trip a success. 

The shipchandler or ship supplier is responsible for planning and organizing procurement for the vessel. In this article, we will look at the role of a ship chandler in the shipping business.

panama canal ship chandler

Photo by Rikin Katyal on Unsplash

So here are some of our tips in order to successfully accomplish the transit:

Background and history of ship chandlery

The profession of shipchandler goes back to the time when navigation was invented. When the very first ships sailed into the oceans, people realized the need for careful preparation of supplies for their travel. It was then the first experts appeared who could calculate the required number of ropes, canvas and provisions, and organize the purchase for the owner of the ship.

With the development of navigation, the work of ship suppliers became more difficult due to the complexity of the design of ships and an increased number and range of sea routes. The list of goods needed for the ship changed and grew exponentially every century.

For a long time, purchases could not be started before mooring. The crew did not have the technical means to send a purchase request prior the arrival at the port. Preparing the vessel for a new voyage took anywhere from several days to several weeks, or at times months. 

The ship chandler profession has changed a lot since the invention of the internet. Ship suppliers now have the opportunity to order the necessary goods before the ship arrives at the port. This reduces downtime and saves lots of time. These days, the loading of supplies on board begins immediately after mooring, and Internet trading is used to plan purchases.


The ship chandler or a ship supplier is responsible for supplying the ship with provisions, equipment and other necessary supplies. He knows exactly what are the rules and technicalities for the delivery of goods to the ship in each port. The laws that govern the supply of goods to foreign ships vary considerably from country to country.

The ship chandler’s job requires incredible effort to keep supplies going properly and on time. Ship suppliers serve any ship, from an oil tanker to a cruise ship.

The ship supplier interacts with many parties. In this scheme below, we have shown the interaction between ship chandler and different authorities: from health to customs, and shipping agencies. As well as some examples of documentation that he must coordinate with these authorities. 

ship chandler responsibilities


The ship chandler acts as an intermediary between the captain of the ship and stores, and warehouses. He assists the captain and owner of the vessel in organizing the voyage. While the ship is in the port, the ship supplier organizes and collects deliveries, prepares the documentation, negotiates with local authorities on behalf of the captain.

The organization of the delivery begins with a request received for a quote from the captain or through the ship owner’s office. Ship chandler prepares the quotation and obtains permission to purchase. Then he places an order on the trading platform, finds suppliers and signs documents. The shipchandler is also responsible for taking delivery and checking the ordered goods

Shipchandler companies

In the twenty-first century, a ship chandler is not only a sole expert who organizes purchases, it’s often a complex and big organization with numerous employees specializing in different areas and often professional tools and transport, as well as warehousing and logistics spaces and entire buildings.  Because of very high complexity and  development of shipping and  supply requirements, it has become impossible to provide the ship with everything necessary by only one man.

The ship chandler company is an indispensable link in the ship management chain. It is impossible to imagine the organization of shipping without the participation of ship chandlers. Every major port has dozens of companies supplying ships. Most companies operate in the largest hubs such as Rotterdam, Singapore, Shanghai, Istanbul, Panama Canal area etc.

Shipchandlers have a specialty. Some companies supply certain categories of products. Other companies supply a wider range of goods and equipment. 

Small companies serve only ships calling at one port. Large international companies are represented in almost all major ports, they own their own logistics and warehouse network. All ship chandlers are united by a common goal – supplying the ship with the necessary goods at the right time and in the right place.

Range of services

Large companies work 24/7. They offer a wide range of products for different areas of the ship. The list of the most popular products for the ship includes provisions, mooring ropes and anchor chains, spare parts, paints and lubricants.

Ship chandlers keep track of the arrival and departure times of ships scheduled for deliveries in order to plan the procurement schedule. Most companies have warehouses to keep stock of popular items. The presence of a warehouse allows you to take orders for urgent deliveries.

In major ports, vessel servicing takes 1-1.5 days. The goal of ports is maximum profit, so all the needs of ships must be met urgently. Thanks to ship chandlers, loading supplies and servicing a ship is done in a matter of hours. Any delay will affect the ship’s schedule and result in a heavy fine.

Some ship chandlers offer ship owners a full service cycle. What is included in the list of available services:

  • non-significant repairs of the ships;
  • provisions and equipment supply and delivery;
  • transit delivery; 
  • cleaning;
  • customs clearance;
  • warehouse services;
  • logistics services; 
  • waste management.


Shipchandlers arrange for supplies to be brought aboard the vessel. Loading of goods is carried out at the pier and at the anchorage. Delivery time is limited by the vessel’s stay in the port. Goods can be brought on board by another ship or even a helicopter. In this case, shipping costs way more. 

Some ship chandlers help to buy not only goods for the ship, but also the ships themselves. They pick up the vessel at the request of the client and evaluate the condition of the ships offered for sale. Shipchandlers help you save time choosing a ship and avoid buying a damaged vessel.

Categories of products



Deck goods

Personal safety products, maps, signs, hoses, couplings, valves, oil spill response equipment, marine equipment, hatch sealing tapes, radio room consumables, head deck cleaning equipment, pipes, bends, tees, flanges, etc. 

Cabin goods

Fabrics and linen, detergents and cleaning products, household items, dishes and kitchen utensils, toiletries, brushes and mats, locks and latches. 


Cheese, dairy products, vegetables, fruits, drinks, fast food, cereals, legumes, frozen meat and fish, drinking water, bread, canned food. 

Security products 

Life rafts, life jackets, life buoys, breathing kits, survival equipment accessories, navigation lights, fire extinguishers, gas detectors, fire suits and diving suits

Machinery and equipment

Lamps, lubricates and oils, hydraulic fluids, bearings, seals and V-belts, hot and cold welding equipment, rubber mats and cords, non-asbestos packaging. 

Electrical tools and equipment

Light bulbs and lanterns, navigation instruments, searchlights, refrigerators, washing machines, grinders, plugs, sockets, alarms and horns, lead-acid batteries and chargers, cables, switches and circuit boards

Office equipment and supplies

Computers and communication equipment, copiers and consumables, radio parts.


Boiler water treatment agents, tank cleaners, oil spill cleanup agents, dispersants, fuel oil treatment chemicals, air cooler cleaners.

Paints and accessories

Heat-resistant paints, rollers and flat brushes, anti-slip paints, finishing paints, specialty paints, airless paint spraying machines.

Other tools 

Hand tools, measuring tools, welding equipment, bolts and nuts, cutting tools.

Ropes and lifting devices

Mooring ropes and tails, galvanized steel ropes, hooks, chains, rods, lifting slings and nets, fairleads.


Shipchandler warehouses are equipped with forklifts, shelving systems, pallets and custom software. Success in this area requires investment in temperature-controlled warehouses, refrigerated trucks, portable generators, and ongoing staff training.

Shipchandlers can rent cars or minibuses so sailors can visit doctors, buy personal items, and visit local attractions. Together with the rental of transport, you can order the services of a driver and an accompanying guide.

Types of service



Ship maintenance 

Overhaul and maintenance of the vessel.

Overhaul of the deck and engine rooms.

Crane repair.

Urgent repair of the vessel.

Engine repair and overhaul.


Crew laundry service

Fuel tank cleaning

Deck cleaning.

Cleaning in cabins. 


Vessel treatment against insect pests.

Transportation rental

Rent of cars and minibuses

Use of shore cranes

Deck work 

Anchor and anchor chain maintenance

Welding and repair work on deck

Minor deck repairs

Engine Maintenance

Checking valves, pipes and fittings

Maintenance of hydraulics, pumps and compressors

Rescue Equipment Check

Inspection of life jackets, boats and rafts

Inspection of fire fighting equipment

Work standards

Companies must obtain licenses to operate as a shipchandler. In the structure of the company, it is customary to single out departments that perform certain functions: the purchasing department, the sales department, the technical department, the logistics department, etc.

The departments should be staffed by specialists who have a good knowledge of the specifics of the local market and international trade. The company must have partnerships with a large number of suppliers and manufacturers in order to quickly fulfill orders.

To confirm the quality of work, shipchandlers are certified according to the following standards:

  • ISO 9001.
  • ISO 14001. 
  • ISO 22000. 
  • OHSAS 18001.


Shipchandlers must be familiar with the following conventions:

  • OLAS – International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea.
  • MARPOL 73/78 – International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships.
  • COLREGS – Convention of International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.
  • STCW – International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers.
  • SOPEP – Shipboard Oil Pollution Emergency Plan.
  • IMDG – Code International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code.
  • ISM – Code International Safety Management Code.
  • ISPS – Code International Ship and Port Facility Security Code.
  • MLC – Maritime Labour Convention.


The captain and the owner of the vessel must be sure that the company whose services they are going to request is a reliable and financially stable partner. The confirmation of the status is the entry into the associations IMPA and ISSA. Membership in these associations confirms that the company delivers quality products, ensures the security of supply and cares about the environment.

Shipchandler can provide vessel bunkering services. Bunkering is the filling of fuel and engine oil in containers. Bunkering and supplying ships with goods are different areas of activity. To provide bunkering services, a shipchandler must obtain additional licenses and certificates.

Benefits of working with a shipchandler

Turning to a shipchandler saves the boat owner time and money. Shipchandler negotiates with manufacturers and suppliers, and organizes the delivery. As a result, the ship receives all the necessary goods from one partner. This solution allows you to shorten delivery times and reduce the number of people involved in the process.

Shipchandlers offer good discounts when ordering goods and services. Ordering from them is much more profitable than contacting different suppliers. A consequence of high competition is price averaging. Shipchandlers are aware of the current market rates and do not overcharge for services so as not to lose customers.

Shipchandlers have contacts to supply boat parts and services at competitive prices. Referring to them guarantees that the vessel will work properly on the next voyage.

ship chandler benefits

Photo by Venti Views on Unsplash

Business digitalization

A modern approach to ship supply requires a reliable and efficient IT system. Companies choose technical solutions taking into account the scale of their business, product range, and management structure.

There are many software solutions for selling and buying goods, as well as for inventory control. Large ship chandlers use their own custom-designed software.

Companies that quickly respond to market changes and actively implement IT technologies win in the competition. E-commerce platforms bring together shipowners and suppliers in one place, making the procurement process faster and easier.

Popular services for shipchandlers:


It is very important for shipchandlers to interact with all parties involved in the ship supply process. New IT technologies make it possible to maintain online communication, reduce operating costs, and optimize supply chains. Digitalization of business creates new opportunities for market participants.

The future

The population of the planet is increasing exponentially. Thanks to rising living standards in many countries, there is an increase in the consumption of goods. International trade is actively developing. All these factors lead to an increase in the volume of maritime transport.

In recent decades, there have been a number of mergers of large companies. Shipchandlers combine financial and production resources, accumulated experience, logistics schemes, and IT processes. The merger of companies allows us to withstand fierce competition in the supply market.

In the near future, supply chain requirements will include more automation and digitalization. The competitiveness of the business will depend on the shiphandler’s ability to quickly respond to customer requirements and integrate its business with the client’s business.

It is obvious that the shipchandling will remain relevant for a long time to come. Sea cargo transportation requires careful completion of the vessel with everything necessary. At the moment, this task can be performed by a person or a group of specialists. Automation allows you to speed up the supply of the ship, but no neural network can yet replace the shipchandler.