A ship chandler is a retail dealer in special supplies or equipment for ships, who may also be responsible for the berthing and docking of the vessel before it arrives into port and is usually considered the liaison officer for the vessel's needs and demands in a foreign port.
For traditional sailing ships items that could be found in a chandler might include: rosin, turpentine, tar, pitch, linseed oil, sperm whale oil, tallow, lard, varnish, twine, cordage, rope, hemp, oakum, tools (hatchet, axe, hammer, chisel, planes, lantern, nail, spike, boat hook, caulking iron, hand pump, marlingspike), brooms, mops, galley supplies, leather goods and paper.
Today's chandlers deal more in goods typical for fuel powered commercial ships, such as oil tankers, container ships, bulk carriers. They supply the crew's food, ships maintenance supplies, cleaning compounds, paint, rope, et cetera.
Their speciality is the high level of service available and the short time required to fill and deliver their special orders. Because commercial ships discharge and turn around quickly today, delay is expensive and the services of a dependable ship chandler are urgent.