Saturday, 21 February 2015

Classification Societies- WHAT, HOW and WHY?

Maybe everything from a steel pin to a huge ship needs classification or categorization these days. The world would come to a frigid standstill if we lack any form of classification or stratification of the objects around us. So, what do we mean by the term ‘Classification’?

It is basically the accredition of any existent aspect, living or non-living, material or immaterial, big or small according to some attribute, viz. some nomenclature and quality.  However when it comes to ships, our topic of interest, it becomes slightly haywire with more or less the same meaning. The ships or any marine vehicle trotting the 2/3rd of our globe and proving to be indispensable to the lifelines of the world’s economy, commerce, transportation, logistics, defence, industries or merely the leisure and pleasure of our lives are put into some technical classification post-manufacture and are surveyed on a regular basis. Classification societies or simply ‘Class’ does the tedious job of analysis and checking the design, structure , function , working conditions, highs & lows, strength & weaknesses or simply the ‘Status of a Ship’ to put in a nutshell. Unlike companies, firms or multinationals all of which harnesses a self-circumventing business and  a desirable profit, classification societies has to work on a regular basis  to provide a survey of any ship from time to time to ascertain the safety standards, the strength, the capabilities of the vehicle under consideration for the better productivity to be put in more economic terms, for the ship in the marine world and also to repair and resolve any of its abnormalities or defects if any and finally qualify it as OK to be a seafarering vessel. Contrary to certain beliefs, these are not neccessarily Government Organisations and only try to maintain certain techincal standards and do not assume explicite responsiblity for total safety or guarantee. Their certificates become handy especially during settlement of insurance claims and similar legal arguments pertaining to crew, personnel or customers as may be.

Under the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS), there are 12 leading classification societies of the world namely:
  1.          Indian Register of Shipping
  2.     American Bureau of Shipping(ABS)
  3.          Stiftelsen Det Norske Veritas - Germanischer Lloyd.(DNV-GL)
  4.           Nippon Kaiji Kyokai (Class NK)
  5.     Registro Italiano Navale (RINA)
  6.     Lloyd’s Register of Shipping (LRS)
  7.     Bureau Veritas(BV)
  8.     Russian Maritime Register of Shipping (RS)
  9.     China Classification Society(CCS)
  10.     Croatian Register of Shipping
  11.     Korean Register
  12.          Polish Rejster Statkow

IACS aims at Safer and Cleaner Shipping”.  All the classification societies under it are dedicated towards improving the quality, technical specification and other innovative aspects of  improving, maintaining and checking the standards of shipping and the marine traffic all-round the globe.

On 14 December 2005 the Common Structural Rules for Tankers and Bulk Carriers were unanimously adopted by the IACS Council for implementation on 1 April 2006. The Council was satisfied that the new rules have been based on sound technical grounds, and achieve the goals of more robust and safer ships.

Leaders of the Game


It is a New York based non-profit non-governmental organization founded in 1862. Its aim is to “Serve the public interest as well as the needs of our members and clients by promoting the security of life and property and preserving the natural environment”.
Since 150 years of its advent, it aims at improving the quality of shipping, with special care about safely, securely, judiciously and responsibly advocating the marine vehicles and offshore structures.
It spans across 70 countries with over 200 offices. It provides the vital classification services.

It is also the second largest classification society with a classified span of over 12000 vessel and other tertiary and secondary offshore structures. Remember ‘Prestige’? It was an oil tanker whose accident and oil spill off the Galician coast in the vicinity of the French and Spanish mainland coastline caused massive damage to aquatic life and property. Many of the Spanish governing bodies pinpointed the ABS for its callous ‘misclassification’ and an agitated lawsuit followed.  However, it was dismissed after the trial and till date ABS remains one of the premier classification societies across the globe.

Class NK 

Nippon Kaiji Kyokai is the Japanese Classification society .It conducts surveys regarding the safety, technical aspects, but structures, but also safety equipment, cargo handling gear, engines, machinery, and electrical and electronic systems among others.
According to a 2007 report, the society had 6658 ships under class which comprised about 21% of the world/s total fleet. Globally, it has 78 survey sites.

It played as a motive force in the IACS common guidelines for bulk carriers and is one of the chief founding members. Class NK has a cutting edge research and technology and conducts classification services in a more advanced way through research.

The Indian Register of Shipping 

IRS or Indian register of Shipping is our country’s very own classification society. It has its country headquarters at Mumbai.

It is an internationally acclaimed society founded in 1975 and has a commendable stake in the international maritime business standards. Statutory design appraisals, research and design, certification and surveys are regular activities. Its collaboration with the Indian Navy in 2007 marked a great milestone.

Registro Italiano Navale

RINA made its advent in 1861 at Genoa, Italy to manage and repair the damage of the hull and the rigging equipment and utility of sail ships. It has extensive services in Italy, Great Britain and France. It has forayed into Shipping, energy and infrastructure and is much more than a classification society. RINA has a network of companies with which it co-ordinates. 

Today RINA's assets run into 300 million euros and now the oragnisation focuses on sustainable practices, respect for the environment, social progress, research, innovation with a view for the 21st century and beyond. It provides marine classification, business assurance, training across industries, evaluation and qualificaion of suppliers, product testing and supervision.


The Lloyd's Register of Shipping

LRS is an Independent risk management organisation and classification society which is based in UK having its headquarters in London. It is under the Lloyd’s Register foundation which is sole charitable non-profit and non-government organisation that dedicates itself to funds in research and development, construction and engineering and advanced science and development. Its long forged history dated back to the early 1760 and has no shareholders except the Lloyds Register Foundation since 2012.
Its areas of interest include maritime research and shipping, energy, railway and metro, environment systems. Some of the rules and compulsions imposed by it are:

  • Materials used for construction of the vessel.
  • Ship structural requirements and minimum scantlings, depending on ship type.
  • Operation and maintenance of main and auxiliary machinery.
  • Operation and maintenance of emergency and control systems. 

DNV-GL (Read our interview with DNV GL)

Det Norske Veritas and Germanischer Lloyd were two exclusive societies which merged in 2013. The journey goes back to 1864 were the hull structures and overall stabilities of the Norwegian ships and their resultant problems were commonplace.

Remember Deepwater Horizon oil spill? It was instrumental in the assessment of the deepwater oil spill and the US retained it for the entire investigation. It consists of:

DNV Maritime and Oil and Gas,

DNV Energy and Management,

DNV Business Assurance.

DNV –GL is a slowly expanding entity with a considerable influence over the inflating third world countries like India.

I won’t exaggerate the history and span of the societies, neither shall I throw light upon all the societies as of them having the same aim. Each has its pros and cons and has a different view regarding the safety factor and the complete “well-being” of a ship or an offshore structure.

What would it be like without them?

Well, it would be a world with frequent (sometimes similar) accidents in the seas and oceans. All the structural and functional utilities would be taken for granted and the innovative measures would come to a standstill. An unclassified ship or structure is like building a house at a densely populated area without any municipal reviews or launching a bland SUV on the road without any checking and testing!LSD

Article By: Subhodeep Ghosh