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Classification Societies & their Role in Shipping

written by: Raunekk • edited by: KennethSleight • updated: 4/29/2009

A ship that is not in a technically satisfactory state can easily be susceptible to accidents. So who makes sure that a ship is worthy of sailing? Who decides if the ship should be allowed to sail or not? Let's find it out in the article inside.

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    Today there are hundreds of ships that sail on the blue cover of the earth. It is near to impossible to keep a track of every vessel to check if the ship is obeying all the regulations and codes of the shipping industry. A technically unsound ship can be of grave danger, both to the human lives and the marine environment. This the the main reason that required the formation of an international body that would look after the technical issues of the ships.

    Classification society was established in 1968, to ensure that all the sailing ships were built and maintained according to some highly defined standards.Classification society also checks the drawings of the ship before the construction and approves them prior to the actual construction. It also keeps a track of the whole construction process. Classification Society is consultative to IMO, which it does by providing expert technical knowledge.

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    How to get recognition of a classification society?

    A classification society not only checks the construction plans of a ship but also approves the material used for the construction and tests the skills of the people involved. Once the construction is done according to the classification's standards, it issues a Certificate of Class to the ship. This certificate reflects all the aspects of the ship including hull and machinery. Apart from that a trading certificate is issued which has a validity period of 5 years. All these certificates are endorsed every year by successful completion of "Annual Surveys".

    To carry out these survey, professional surveyors are hired which are controlled by respective Classification Society. All the societies of the world are classified under one group called International Association of Classification Societies (IASC). The main members of these group are :

    • American Bureau of Shipping
    • Bureau Veritas
    • Germanischer Lloyd
    • LLoyd's Registry
    • Det Norske Veritas
    • Nippon Kaiji Kyokai

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    Classification Societies and Flagstate

    Before the ship is issued any certificate, the ship has to be registered in a certain country. This will issue the ship, the Flagstate of that country. Thus a Flagstate accepts a ship that carries its flag as belonging to its fleet. But this is not free. The Flagstate charges some amount or levy a tax to allow the ship to sail under its jurisdiction. Once done, the ship has to carry the name of the town where it's registered on the stern. The Flagstate also issues a International Tonnage Certificate which carries details of the ship such as dimensions, content of various spaces , gross tonnage etc. Producing this certificate involves a lot of calculation and measuring different areas of the ship.

    Apart from that, Flagstate issues Minimum Safe Manning Certificate which states the minimum number of ship crew and staff required on a ship, and also the training required by them.A ship when on port is charged according to its tonnage. The tonnage certificate issued by Flagstate is used for this purpose. For e.g.- special tonnage certificates are issued by Suez and Panama canal on which their fees are based.

    In the process of approving the ships, Classification Society and Flagstate work hand in hand. Classification society mainly looks after the technical issues of the ship while Flagstate ensures on board safety, personnel training, marine pollution prevention and ship to shore communication. But these functions are not "Domain Constrained". This means that Classification society and Flagstate often share the duties to look after the different processes. For e.g. Flagstates often delegate their tasks to Classification Society. Thus Classification Society can be seen issuing statutory certificates apart from class certificates.

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    Ship Knowledge - A mordern encyclopedia by K. Van Dokkum