What does a Ship Chandler do?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A ship chandler is a merchant who deals in supplies for ships, including everything from cruise ships to oil tankers. For sailors, a chandlery provides a one-stop shop to meet basic needs in port, allowing people to quickly supply a ship so they can turn it around and go back out to sea. These retailers usually operate very near to a port to make them as accessible as possible to the people responsible for securing supplies on board the ship.

A chandler may provide supplies for sailing ships.
A chandler may provide supplies for sailing ships.

The ship chandler stocks a wide variety of goods, including food, cleaning supplies, marine electronics, and other sundries people may need to smoothly run a ship. The merchant relies on a variety of local sources to keep goods in stock and often accepts credit or foreign currency to make it easier for ships to quickly meet their supply needs. A shipping company may have a contract with a ship chandler, agreeing to meet all needs in port with that firm in exchange for benefits like breaks on costs and other services.

Ships can place an order with a ship chandler before arriving in port so the chandler can get ready for the ship's arrival. This will cut down on loading and turnaround time by allowing representatives of the chandler to immediately start stocking the ship once it docks. Chandlers also tend to keep track of the movements of ships and their estimated arrival in port so they can plan ahead with orders, making sure they have goods in stock in case a ship has emergency needs.

This work requires a knowledge of the shipping industry and familiarity with the needs of various kinds of ships. Ship chandlers also need to establish and maintain good relationships with wholesalers in their region to access the supplies and services they need. Awareness of the competition is also part of the job; chandlers need to know what competitors stock and how much they charge to keep abreast with changing market forces.

Like other support personnel in port, the ship chandler is part of a well-oiled machine that can resupply a ship and offer port-side maintenance very efficiently, to limit the amount of time boats need to spend in port. For many ships, time is of the essence during stops, because they need to get goods from one point to another in the shortest time possible. Especially if a stop is made in emergency conditions, the ability to act quickly to get the ship ready to sail again is critical.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I want to be a ship chandler. My qualification is as a B.COM graduate. For the past fourteen years, I worked for a shipping company as an engine fitter. I have good knowledge about how computers operate. I know how they order and ship articles. I can do this job honestly and perfectly.

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