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Classification Societies

Classification societies are organizations that establish and apply technical standards in relation to the design, construction and survey of marine related facilities including ships and offshore structures. The vast majority of ships are built and surveyed to the standards laid down by classification societies. These standards are issued by the classification society as published rules. A vessel that has been designed and built to the appropriate rules of a society may apply for a certificate of classification from that society. The society issues this certificate upon completion of relevant classification surveys. As an independent, self-regulating, externally audited, body, a classification society has no commercial interests related to ship design, ship building, ship ownership, ship operation, ship management, ship maintenance or repairs, insurance, or chartering. In establishing its rules, each classification society may draw upon the advice and review of members of the industry who are considered expert in their field.

In the second half of the 18th century, marine insurers, based at Lloyd's coffee house in London, developed a system for the independent inspection of the hull and equipment of ships presented to them for insurance cover. In 1760 a Committee was formed for this express purpose, the earliest existing result of their initiative being Lloyd's Register Book for the years 1764-65-66. At that time, an attempt was made to 'classify' the condition of each ship on an annual basis. The condition of the hull was classified A, E, I, O or U, according to the excellence of its construction and its adjudged continuing soundness (or otherwise). Equipment was G, M, or B: simply, good, middling or bad. In time, G, M and B were replaced by 1, 2 or 3, which is the origin of the well-known expression 'A1', meaning 'first or highest class'.

Bureau Veritas (BV) was founded in Antwerp in 1828, moving to Paris in 1832. 'Lloyd's Register of British and Foreign Shipping' was reconstituted as a self-standing 'classification society' in 1834; rules for construction and survey were published the same year. Registro Italiano Navale (RINA) dates from 1861; American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) traces its origins back to 1862. Adoption of common rules for ship construction by Norwegian insurance societies in the late 1850s led to the establishment of Det Norske Veritas (DNV) in 1864. Germanischer Lloyd (GL) was formed in 1867 and Nippon Kaiji Kyokai (ClassNK) in 1899. The Russian Maritime Register of Shipping (RS) was an early offshoot of the River Register of 1913. More recent foundations have beenYugoslav Register of Shipping (now the Croatian Register of Shipping (CRS)) in 1949, China Classification Society (CCS), 1956; Korean Register (KR), 1960; and Indian Register of Shipping (IRS), 1975.

The purpose of class notations is to specify what requirements a vessel must satisfy  when being built and throughout its operational life.

Concordia's P-MAX tankers will be built in accordance with regulations drawn up by the classification society Det Norske Veritas (DNV). They will have the following complete class notation:

+1A1 Tanker for Oil ESP NAUTICUS (Newbuilding) PLUS-2 EO ICE-1B VCS-2 RPS NAUT-AW



Each symbol has its own special meaning:

The vessel has been inspected by DNV while under construction


The vessel complies with DNV's regulations for hull, machinery and equipment

Tanker for Oil

Indicates type of vessel


The vessel complies with the special requirements of the "Enhanced Survey Programme" concerning how inspections of the hull structure must be performed during its operational life

NAUTICUS (Newbuilding)

The vessel was modelled using special software, which was then used to also calculate and document the fatigue life and strength margins of the hull structure


Strength margins and design of critical hull components based on advanced fatigue tests over and above the basic requirements. These are used for vessels with a long planned lifespan or intended for service in particularly harsh waters. (P-MAX has a calculated fatigue life of 25 years in the North Atlantic - equivalent to 40 years of worldwide trading.)


The vessel may operate with an unmanned engine room, i.e. an alarm can be routed to the engineer on watch, the bridge and the chief engineer


The vessel complies with Ice Class 1B as specified in the Swedish-Finnish regulations for the Baltic Sea, i.e. a speed of 5 knots in a channel with 0.8 m ice thickness


The vessel satisfies special requirements concerning control of vapours from its cargo oil tanks


The vessel can retain at least 50% of its propulsion power in the event of a single failure in its machinery, including fire or flooding any single compartment


The vessel satisfies enhanced requirements regarding navigation function, including: bridge layout, design of navigation station, placement of equipment, systems for avoiding grounding and automation level.


The class notations serve an important purpose in that they specify the properties and quality standard of a vessel. At the same time, the notations used today are rather difficult for an outsider to interpret as most of the classification societies have their own notations and standards. At IACS, the International Association of Classification Societies, there is a discussion in progress about increasing coordination in several areas and a joint transition to more goal-related class requirements. Hopefully, in the future it will be easier for customers and other stakeholders to distinguish between vessels with different properties, such as doubled functions and strength margins.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 12:42:41 ZULU