Ship classification


Ship classification is regarded as the development and worldwide implementation of published rules and regulations governing structural strengths of all parts of the hull and its appendages, and the safety and reliability of the main propulsion and steering systems and auxiliary systems built into a ship in order to maintain basic conditions on board, enabling the ship to operate in its intended service from the perspective of insurers, cargo shippers, administrative authorities and other parties.

A ship built in accordance with an IACS member rules and regulations and which fulfills the applicable stability requirements will be assigned a class in the Register Book of the Society. Each Member Society maintains the provisions of class through periodical visits by its surveyors to the ship in order to ascertain that the ship continues to comply with the rules of the Member Society.

A ship is said to be in class when the rules and regulations that pertain to it have, in the opinion of the Society, been complied with. Classification is vital for the structural and engineering design, construction and operation of ships, and affects shipbuilding, maintenance and repair, ship brokering, chartering, marine insurance, and banking.

The classification certificate issued by a Member Society is a document which confirms that a ship has been designed and built in accordance with that Society’s rules and is fit for its intended service. Failure to meet the standards set by the Society or non-compliance with the recommendations issued as a result of a survey may result in the suspension or withdrawal of class.

Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) specifies the minimum standards for the construction, equipment and operation of ships. It covers the different aspects of safety at sea. It is the most important international treaty affecting the safety of merchant ships.

It is mainly applicable to vessels engaged in international shipping and trade. The Convention currently in force is better known as the SOLAS 1974 as amended, or the SOLAS 74/78.

Its provisions include regulations governing:

Vessel construction, repair, modification and outfitting,
Fire protection, detection and prevention,
Life saving appliances,
Radio communications and navigational equipment,
Safety of navigation,
Carriage of cargo including dangerous cargo,
Management for the safe operation on ships (or the International Safety Management Code),
Safety measures for passenger vessels, high speed craft, bulk carriers, tankers, roll on-roll off vessels and other vessels,
Safe manning levels,
Pollution prevention for tankers and other vessels,
Regulations affecting vessel traffic services, and
Other similar regulations

The first convention was adopted in 1914 in reaction to the accident involving the RMS Titanic. It has seen subsequent amendments and has since been updated to what is now known as the 1974 SOLAS Convention.

Under its provision, the “flag state”, or the government of the flag which a vessel flies, has the responsibility for ensuring that such vessel complies with the requirements of the SOLAS Convention and possesses the necessary statutory certificates to evidence such compliance.

Port State Control Governments of other IMO-member nations at which port a vessel may be found, or “port states,” have the authority to inspect ships of other IMO-member country if there are clear grounds for believing that the ship and its equipment do not substantially comply with the requirements of the SOLAS Convention. This procedure is known as “Port State Control”.

The convention is kept up to date by periodic amendments by the IMO. The amendments enter into force through tacit acceptance procedure and is deemed binding on all member states on the date specified by the amendment.