Ships Chandlers are one of the oldest professions and exist in every port throughout the World to supply the maritime needs of visiting ships and to keep the ports shipping movements fluid. The term chandler originally referred to rope suppliers for wooden sailing ships from the Sixteenth Century onwards and survives today with the surname Chandler, common around English speaking ports.
Today ships chandlers perform the role of a wholesale supplier to ships visiting port. Their unique knowledge of local markets and the ability to supply at very short notice anything a visiting vessel might require, coupled with the capability to deal in any currency, provides a valuable service for ship owners and captains and keeps the local port’s shipping movements oiled, while helping the local economy grow.
The type of ships that are supplied by ship chandlers depend very much upon the geographical location of the port and the trade routes the port serves. They might be asked to provide supplies for virtually every type of shipping passing through their port, including local inshore coasters and dredgers, passenger and cruise liners, oil tankers, container and cargo ships, ferries and visiting naval military vessels. A local Navy will usually have its own logistical and quartermaster supply chains.
The modern chandler may also be asked to supply goods and equipment for other maritime activities such as oil rigs, wave hubs and offshore wind farms.
The type of goods, provisions, equipment and mechanical or electrical parts that a chandler is asked to supply, again depends upon the location of the port and the type of visiting ship. However all ships chandlers are asked to provide food for the crew and passengers and fuel.
Typically the types of goods required by visiting ships are fresh provisions including meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, water, bread, dairy products and dry stores. Often a chandler will be asked to provide speciality goods for various ethnic requirements such as kosher or halal meat.