Wednesday, 13 February 2013


Many individual still confuses ship registration with ship classification. It becomes even confusing where some international ship registers offer the services of classification as well as ship registration. Below write up will help clearly understand classification societies together with their role in shipping:


A classification society is a Non-governmental organization that establishes and maintains technical standards for the construction and operation of Ships and offshore structures.

The society is also responsible for certification and validating that construction is according to set standards and carries out regular surveys to ensure compliance with the standards. 

Classification surveyors inspect ships to make sure that the ship, its components and machinery are built and maintained according to the standards required for their particular class

The best know class of ship to this day is class 100A1 

Today a ship either meets the relevant class society’s rules or it does not.  

To avoid liability, classification societies explicitly take no responsibility for the safety, fitness for purpose, or seaworthiness of the ship. In other words, classification societies do not issue statements or certifications that a vessel is 'fit to sail' or 'unfit to sail', but qualify that the vessel is in compliance with the required codes. This is in part related to legal liability of the classification society. 

·         Classification societies set technical rules for vessel construction
·         Confirm that designs and calculations meet these rules,
·         Survey ships and structures during the process of construction and commissioning, and
·         Periodically survey vessels to ensure that they continue to meet the rules.
·         They are responsible for classing oil platforms, other offshore structures, and submarines. This survey process covers diesel engines, important shipboard pumps and other vital machinery.

·         They employ ship surveyors, material engineers, piping engineers, mechanical engineers, chemical engineers and electrical engineers, often located at ports and office buildings around the world.

·         The larger societies also conduct research at their own research facilities in order to improve the effectiveness of their rules and to investigate the safety of new innovations in shipbuilding.


The advent of open registers, or flags of convenience who also had interest in ship classification, led to competition between classification societies and to a relaxation of their standards.

They have lower standards for vessel, equipment, and crew than traditional maritime countries and often have classification societies certify and inspect the vessels in their registry, instead of by their own shipping authority.

This made it attractive for ship owners to change flag, whereby the ship lost the economic link and the country of registry. This made it easier to change class and introduced a new phenomenon; class hopping.

A ship owner that is dissatisfied with class can change to a different class relatively easily. This has led to more competition between classes and a relaxation of the standards.

This has led to the shipping industry losing confidence in the classification societies

The major classification Societies quickly came together and formed the international association of classification society. This association came up with guidelines, procedures, rules and policies to govern the classification of ships. This included establishment of TOCA (Transfer of Class Agreement). This provided guidelines that were to be adhered to for change of class.


Today there are more than 50 classification societies, the most known of which are:

1.        Det Norske Veritas (DNV)

2.       Lloyd's Register  (LR)

3.       Bureau Veritas (BV)

4.       Nippon Kaiji Kyokai (NKK)

5.       American Bureau of Shipping (AB)

6.       Registro Italiano Navale (RINA)

7.       Germanischer Lloyd (GL)

8.       China Classification Society (CSS)

9.       Russian Maritime Register of Shipping (RMRS)

10.    Korean Register of Shipping (KRS)


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