Ship name plates – Meaning of ship names and their abbreviations


The world-renowned personality William Shakespeare once remarked: what’s in a name? Yet we all know without exception that a name gives identity not only to human beings but also to inanimate objects in this world. Hence it would not be surprising to note that even ships have got unique names apart from other identification data which we will study and other articles. So have you ever noticed closely the ship name plates.

If you are a keen observer you might have noted that there is usually a prefix with the ship name that is normally an abbreviation of a combination of few alphabets. In this article we will try to learn more about these prefixes and what exactly they signify. It is not possible to cover each and every prefix in this relatively short article but I have tried to incorporate most of the commonly used and important ones here as follows. Please note that this classification is different from the classification we have been studying till now regarding different types of sailing ships as the latter is based on the purpose of ships and types of cargo they carry.

Important Types of Ships

M.V. – This prefix stands for Motor Vessel and other terms which could be used are M.S. that stands for Motor Ship. Sometimes these abbreviations are written with a forward slash separating the alphabets rather than the periods. Hence they can also be written as M/V or M/S respectively. As the name itself suggests, they represent ships which are driven by internal combustion engines or diesel marine engines and most of the modern ships including bulk carriers, containers, OBOs etc come in the category of motor ships.

S.S. – you must be familiar with steam locomotives but even ships used to be driven by steam in the earlier days. Of course I do not mean to say that these ships do not exist today, but the number is certainly waning. These ships are known as steamships and use steam generated in the boilers for propulsion rather than diesel engines.

M.T. – this category is closely related to M.V. since it represents a Motor Tanker ship hence these are those types of Motor Vessels which are tankers.

R.V. – these are Research Vessels about which we have studied in detail in related articles such as hydrographic ships and FLIP ships.

F.V. – this stands for fishing vessels that are used for catching fish from the oceans.

FPSO – we have learnt about Floating Production, Storage and Offloading Vessel in a related article

L.B. – lifeboats are used in emergency situations on board ships either when the ship is about to sink or someone has fallen overboard. Check out these interesting articles.

S.V. – though ships are normally referred to as vessels in common language, hence all ships can be said to be S.V. or sailing vessels, yet technically this currently is used to refer to ships which use sails for powering them instead of engines or steam.

N.S. – this is the latest category of ships and refers to nuclear powered ships.

As I told earlier, these are only a part of the entire abbreviation list, but this should be sufficient enough for a newcomer to the shipping arena to know about the most commonly used ships.