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COMMERCIAL shipping folk were the first to suffer when freight rates crashed in 2008.  Freight traders, charterers, shipbrokers, FFA traders and operations staff were no longer cash cows but cash drains.  CVs went from gold-dust to dust overnight.

September to April was a very worrying time indeed and many were predicting a jobs slaughter around about now.  But the night of the long knives hasn’t happened.  In recruitment terms, the worst affected is the container market. It’s not a great time to be looking for a liner job right now! 

But, in the bulk markets, freight rates could be worse.  Look at rates, cargo volumes and traded FFA volumes 9 months ago and, really, we’re all damn lucky to be here still.  Good charterers, shipbrokers and freight traders still have options if they want to move jobs and employers are looking again for analysts, researchers and operations staff.  

But of course the fever’s gone from the market.  The interview and offer process is more measured and a year or two of salary stability is probably for the best.  It was all getting rather silly after all and it did seem a little strange that junior freight traders were doubling salaries every two years. Whatever happened to learning the job first?

On the whole, 2009 bonuses will of course be a shadow of their former selves.  But don’t forget that there are some out there, both on the cargo and the owning side, who positioned themselves just right in 2008.  If you are a shipowner who locked into some long term CoA business at decent rates a couple of years ago and have found yourself chartering in some bargain tonnage this year, you’ll probably want to reward your freight people handsomely this year.  And the same is true for some of the trading houses.  Recessions are tough teachers.  Some haven’t made the grade while others have passed with flying colours.

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