The Institute’s history developed from the Baltic Exchange. Back in 18th and 19th Century, the Baltic was providing ‘a market’ to the British shipbrokers, who were performing their job role. The City of London at that time was the main centre of the world’s dry cargo chartering. 


Several Brokers associations had developed all over Britain in many of the main port areas.

By 1910, members of these local associations were talking about creating a united organisation – and that was the beginning of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers in 1911. Its stated aims were: 

  • To protect and promote, by co-operation, the general welfare and interest of shipbrokers
  • To discuss, consider and report subjects of interest to shipbrokers and to communicate with the Chambers of Commerce and other public bodies
  • To promote or oppose legislative and other measures affecting the business of shipbrokers and to consider, originate and support improvement in maritime and commercial law
  • To consider all questions affecting the interest of persons engaged in the business of shipbrokers
  • To provide better definition and protection to the profession and business of shipbrokers by a system of examination and issue of certificates
It was this last activity – to set standards by examination – that convinced the Privy Council that the Institute was a serious professional body, and on 21st January 1920, it was announced that by ‘Special grace and certain knowledge of His Majesty King George V’, the organisation was incorporated by the Royal Charter and would hence be known as the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers.


In addition to providing an education, the Royal Charter insists upon a system of discipline so that any member acting in a discreditable manner would be censured, suspended or even expelled. This is still the case but thankfully, rarely needed!

As many ICS members worked abroad in Commonwealth countries, they started to open new branches. With a Royal Charter, Membership was open to anyone from the British Commonwealth as well as the UK.

A growing demand by countries outside the Commonwealth led to the Privy Council granting a Supplemental Charter in 1984 which permits membership to be offered to citizens of any country in the world and enabled the expansion of the ICS International Network