A classification society is a non-governmental organization that establishes and apply technical standards in relation to the design, construction and operation of ships and offshore structures.
The society will also validate that construction is according to these standards and carry out regular surveys in service to ensure compliance with the standards.
To avoid liability, they explicitly take no responsibility for the safety, fitness for purpose, or seaworthiness of the ship.
The vast majority of ships are built and surveyed to the standards laid down by classification societies.
Formation of classification society
In the second half of the 18th century, the marine underwriters needed a way of assessing the quality of the ships that they were being asked to insure.
The marine insurers, based in London, developed a system for the independent inspection of the hull and equipment of ships presented to them for insurance cover. The purpose of this system was NOT to assess safety or seaworthiness of the ship, but to evaluate risk only.
In 1760, the Register Society was formed — which would subsequently become Lloyd’s Register — to publish an annual register of ships. This publication attempted to classify the condition of the ship’s hull and equipment according to the state of its construction and its continuing soundness.
Liability of Classification society
As an independent, self-regulating, externally audited, body, a classification society has no commercial interest related to ship design, building, ownership, operation or management.
The purpose of a Classification Society is to provide classification and statutory services.
- To avoid the liability, they do not take direct responsibility for the safety or seaworthiness of the ship thus their certificate should not be construed as an express warranty of safety, fitness for purpose or seaworthiness of the ship.
- It is an attestation only that the vessel is in compliance with the standards that have been developed and published by the society issuing the classification certificate.
- 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.
- However, such a certificate should not be interpreted as, a warranty of safety, fitness for purpose or seaworthiness of the ship.
- It is an attestation only that the vessel is in compliance with the Rules of the Classification Society.
- Classification Societies are not guarantors of safety of life or property at sea or the seaworthiness of a vessel because the Classification Society has no control over how a vessel is manned, operated and maintained between the periodical surveys which it conducts.
SOLAS and Class
The role of classification and Classification Societies has been recognized in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, (SOLAS) and in the 1988 Protocol to the International Convention on Load Lines.
SOLAS Ch II-1, Reg 3-1 states that, in addition to the requirements of the other (SOLAS) regulations, ships shall be designed, constructed and maintained in compliance with the structural, mechanical and electrical requirements of a Classification Society which is recognized by the Administration, or with applicable national standards of the Administration which provide an equivalent level of safety.
Assignment of Class
Class is assigned to a ship upon the completion of satisfactory surveys, held to verify that the vessel is in compliance with the relevant Rules of the Society.
This assignment may be given in the following cases:
on completion of the new building, after satisfactory surveys have been performed;
on completion of a satisfactory survey of an existing ship carried out in accordance with the agreement developed by the IACS Member Societies for ships transferring class between Members; or on completion of a satisfactory specific class survey of an existing ship not classed with an IACS Society, or not classed at all.
Definitions and procedures
Period of certificate of Class either from the date of initial classification or from the credited date of the last class renewal/special survey, and expires at the due date assigned for the next class renewal/special survey.
Anniversary date The anniversary date is the day and the month given in the certificate of class which corresponds to the expiry date of the certificate.
Survey time window fixed period during which the annual and intermediate surveys are to be carried out.
Overdue surveys Each periodical survey is assigned a due date specified by the relevant Rules by which it is to be completed.
A survey becomes overdue when it has not been completed by its due date.
Recommendations / conditions of class requirements to the effect that specific measures, repairs, surveys etc. are to be carried out within a specific time limit in order to retain class
Class renewal / special survey
- Carried out at five-year interval.
- Can be granted extension for a maximum period of three months after the due date.
- Can be commenced at the 4th annual survey and be progressed with a view to completion by the 5th anniversary date.
- Include extensive examinations to verify that the structure, main and essential auxiliary machinery, systems and equipment of the ship are in a condition which satisfies the relevant Rules.
- Assess that the structural condition remains effective.
- Help identify substantial corrosion, significant deformation, fractures, damages or other structural deterioration.
- Annual surveys are to be carried out within a window from three months before to three months after each anniversary date.
- At the time of annual surveys, the ship is generally examined.
- The survey includes an inspection of the hull, equipment and machinery of the ship and some witnessing of tests.
- This is to verify that (in the opinion of the attending surveyor) the ship is in a general condition which satisfies the Rule requirements.
- An intermediate survey is to be carried out within the window from three months before the second to three months after the third anniversary date.
- The intermediate survey includes examinations and checks on the structure as specified in the Rules to verify that the vessel is in compliance with the applicable Rule requirements.
The Rule criteria become more stringent with age.
- According to the type and age of the ship the examinations of the hull may be supplemented by thickness measurements as specified in the Rules and where deemed necessary by the attending surveyor.
Continuous survey of Machinery (CSM)
A system of Continuous Surveys is undertaken, whereby the Special Periodical Survey requirements are carried out in regular rotation to complete all of the requirements of the particular Special Periodical Survey within a five-year period.
The proposed arrangements are to provide for survey of approximately 20% of the total number of survey items during each year of the five-year period. Ships which have enhanced survey program are not required to have continuous surveys.
Each item surveyed becomes due again for survey after approximately five years from the date of the survey and the due parts items are generally to be completed each year.
The Annual Survey is not credited and the Certificate of Classification will not be endorsed unless Continuous Survey Items which are due or overdue at the time of the Annual Survey are either completed or granted an extension.
Enhanced Survey Program
IMO adopted a resolution A 744 (18) in 1994 SOLAS conference with guidelines on the Enhanced survey programme for inspection and surveys of bulk carriers and tankers.
Enhanced survey programme is a guideline for shipping companies and owners to prepare their ship for special surveys to maintain the safety of the ship while at sea or at port.
A survey programme is to be prepared by the owner and is to be submitted to the recognized authorities like classification societies, 6 months prior to the survey.
A new chapter XI is added for special measures to enhance maritime safety under this resolution. According to these guidelines, it has 2 Annexes:
Annex A: Guidelines on enhance survey programme of inspection during survey of bulk carrier.
Annex B: Guidelines on enhance survey programme of inspection during survey of oil tankers.
Oil carriers including combination carriers, bulk carriers and chemical carriers are subject to an Enhanced Survey Program.
Oil carriers which are constructed generally with integral tanks and intended primarily to carry oil in bulk have to undergo ESP. Both single and double hull construction, as well as tankers with alternative structural arrangements fall into this category.
Bulk Carriers which are constructed generally with single deck, double bottom, hopper side tanks / topside tanks & with single or double side skin construction in cargo length area, intended primarily to carry dry cargoes in bulk have to undergo ESP.
Ore carrier or equivalent which are constructed generally with single deck, two longitudinal bulkheads and a double bottom throughout the cargo length area and intended primarily to carry ore cargoes in the center holds only also undergo ESP.
Oil / Bulk / Oil carrier (OBO) which are constructed generally with single deck, two longitudinal bulkheads and a double bottom throughout the cargo length area and intended primarily to carry ore cargoes in the center holds or of oil cargoes in center holds and wing tanks have also to undergo ESP.
Harmonization of survey and certification(HSSC)
- The harmonization of survey and certification was adopted by the IMO on 11th November 1988. It entered into force on 3rd feb 2000.
- The HSSC seeks to standardize the period of validity and intervals between surveys for 9 main convention certificates.
- The system covers survey and certification requirements of the SOLAS 1974, LL1966, MARPOL 73/78, as well as the International Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk (IBC Code), Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk (BCH Code) and Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Liquefied Gases in Bulk (IGC Code).
- All these instruments require the issuing of certificates to show that requirements have been met and this has to be done by means of a survey which can involve the ship being out of service for several days.
- The harmonized system alleviates the problems caused by survey dates and intervals between surveys which do not coincide, so that a ship should no longer have to go into port or repair yard for a survey required by one convention shortly after doing the same thing in connection with another instrument.
|Month||9 – 15||21 – 27||33 – 39||45 – 51||57 – 60|
|Safety Equipment survey||A||A or P||P or A||P||R|
|Safety Radio Telegraphy||P||P||P||P||R|
|Cargo Ship Safety construction||A||A or I||I or A||A||R|
|International Load Line||A||A||A||A||R|
|IOPP||A||A or I||I or A||A||R|
|IPP by NLS||A||A or I||I or A||A||R|
|IBC||A||A or I||I or A||A||R|
|IGC||A||A or I||I or A||A||R|
IACS – International Association of Classification Societies
International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) is a technical organization consisting of twelve marine classification societies (out of around 50), headquartered in London.
It is estimated that these 12 societies, collectively class about 94% of all commercial tonnage involved in international trade worldwide.
IACS provides a forum within which the member societies can discuss, research and adopt technical criteria that enhance maritime safety. With its extensive knowledge of the industry and fleet, IACS provides a massive contribution to international shipping and regulations.
It holds a consultative status with the IMO and regularly participates in the capacity of an observer as well as an adviser to the IMO and the member states. IACS also enables cooperation with the Port State Control (PSC) to ensure high quality in the maritime field.
Also Read, Everything about IACS Explained