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Role of a Classification Society in Setting Technical Standards for Seagoing Cargo Ships

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Classification societies set technical standards based on their expertise in the shipping industry, experiences, and research. They inspect vessel structures during construction and commissioning stages to confirm that ship designs and technical standards meet with class rules. They perform periodic surveys to ensure that ships continue to meet their regulations. This classification of vessels developed in the 18th and 19th centuries to help marine insurers assess risk. After each successful evaluation of a vessel's condition, class records are updated.

A potential insurer thus particularly interested in a ship with a sound registers. These registers also provided remarks "classing" those vessels concerning their structural integrity. Separate and independent classification societies were eventually developed to take over this work. Many rules are now established for building and classing vessels and a process for the inspection of ships.

Today Classification Societies are independent of the insurance industry and of the government of the nation in which they are located. However, classification societies routinely serve as agents for many governments for purposes of assignment of loadline and tonnage measurements, and for conducting surveys required by various international conventions.

Classification societies verify the ship's hull and its fittings' structural strength and integrity, as well as the reliability and function of the propulsion steering systems, power generation, and other systems on the ship.

To illustrate the nature of the job done by a classification society, let's take an example of a bulk carrier that was loading bulk wheat in a North American port. At a certain stage of loading, a pinhole-sized crack was discovered in an upper wing ballast tank. The question arose as to whether the vessel should complete loading and proceed on the voyage or whether loading operations should be suspended and the crack repaired immediately. The latter would cause considerable monetary loss. It is a classic example of a job done by a class surveyor who, upon inspection, prepares a statement regarding the seaworthiness condition of the ship. He has to quickly determine the extent of the damage if the ship needs urgent repair or if it can proceed to sea with a temporary repair and permanent repair later or at the next drydock. Cases like this or other major hull damage incidents and also if any machinery or cargo damages reported vessel's classification society are ready to assist, who promptly dispatched a surveyor to render an opinion on the matter.

The vast majority of commercial vessels, therefore, are classed by one Society or another. Classification Societies achieve success by developing and applying their rules through comprehensive and ongoing surveys of the vessel. However, classification should not be viewed as a guarantee of the ship's safety, fitness, or seaworthiness. Classification is only a statement that the vessel complies with the Rules that have been developed and published by the Classification Society issuing the classification certificate.

The International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) is an organization comprised of what many consider to be the most reputable societies. IACS was established to ensure consistent standards and jointly developed rules. IACS classification societies spend considerable time and money on research of ship design, construction, and safety, which is shared amongst IACS members. There are classification societies that are not members of IACS. Many have dubious reputations. Some go out of business in a matter of years. Being in class has significant commercial considerations.

First, high-quality charterers will only consider a vessel that is IACS classed. During the vetting process, a potential charterer will want to know who is the classification of Society. The charter party or other contract of carriage will typically contain a clause that states that the shipowner promises that at the beginning and during the contract's duration, the vessel will be classed by an IACS society. Second, hull and machinery and P and I cover are often contingent on the vessel being in class. Third, Port State Control may target vessels that are classed with certain less than reputable societies. The bottom line is when a vessel not in the class with a reputable society will certainly be more difficulties in trade.

Ship operators should recognize that many classification societies are commercial organizations (while others are affiliated with the government). For example, the American Bureau of Shipping is a nongovernmental organization. The shipowner is the customer and while the Society needs to enforce its Rules, the scrupulously Society needs to work with the shipowner as best as possible to avoid delay and monetary losses. This, by way of example, includes the scheduling of surveys, where possible, to avoid the disruption of the vessel's trade.

A vessel built following the applicable Rules of an IACS Member society may be assigned a class designation by the Society on satisfactory completion of the relevant surveys. For ships in service, the Society carries out surveys to verify that it remains in compliance with those Rules. Should any defects that may affect class become apparent, or damages be sustained between the relevant surveys, the owner is required to inform the Society concerned without delay.

Working for classification societies will involve interaction with ship owners, flag states, port state control, insurers, surveyors, and other groups. Classification assists those who rely on ships for transport, their insurers, among others, and plays a vital role in promoting safe and clean seas.

The International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) publish a free booklet available for download called: The Role of Classification Societies. IACS Members make a unique contribution to maritime safety and regulation through technical support, compliance verification, research, and development. More than 90% of the world's cargo carrying tonnage is covered by the classification design, construction and through-life compliance Rules and standards set by the Member Societies of IACS.

Some of the reputed IACS member societies are: who maintain worldwide offices and surveyors at ports outside of their home countries are listed below:
  1. American Bureau of Shipping
  2. Bureau Veritas
  3. Lloyds Register
  4. Det Norske Veritas
  5. Korean Register
  6. Nipon Kaiji Kyokai,
  7. China Class


Our additional pages contain somewhat larger lists of resources where you can find useful informations
  1. Dry Cargo Charterparties

  2. There are numerous various forms, but to give a taste of dry cargo time charters, two types that are commonly used are: - New York Produce Exchange (NYPE 93) Baltic and International Marine Council (BALTIME 1939 (amended 2001)....

  3. Tanker Time Charters

  4. Specific information such as, parties to the contract, where and when the vessel will be delivered, rates of hire, general permitted cargoes, general trading range etc. ....

  5. Documentation & notices

  6. When a vessel is on Time Charter, bunkers and the majority of port services and costs, etc., are to the account of Time Charterers. However, should Time Charterers default on payment, then these charges may fall on Owners and there will then be a serious risk of the vessel being arrested for debts incurred by the Time Charterer. ....

  7. Function of bill of lading

  8. The Bill of Lading is one of the most important documents that the Master will sign and therefore strict controls on how it is issued are required. Although the B/L is usually drafted by the Shipper and presented to the Master for signature, it is an Owners document. One of its three functions is to act as a receipt for the cargo, so therefore the Master must make sure that the quantity and description of the goods is accurate as he will be expected to deliver the same to the Receiver.....

  9. Role of ship classification society

  10. Classification societies verify the structural strength and integrity of the ship’s hull and its fittings, as well as the reliability and function of the propulsion steering systems, power generation, other systems on the ship....

  11. Seaworthiness for cargo ship, international navigational condition & procedure for Insurance claim

  12. Insurance premiums amount to a very large proportion of the ship’s running costs. Whilst the owner insures his ship against certain risks and may present a claim which will recuperate at least part of his losses, the effect of submitting many claims will have the effect of increasing the insurance premiums for the next year. It is therefore in everyone’s interest to ensure that risks are not taken, that the ship operates safely and that accidents and incidents are avoided....

More info pages:
  1. General Average & The York Antwerp Rules
    The law of General Average is a principle of maritime law whereby all stakeholders in a sea venture proportionally share any losses resulting from a voluntary sacrifice of part of the ship or cargo to save the whole in an emergency. It is a unique maritime concept. One of the most ancient aspects of shipping is the general average. When an intentional sacrifice of property is made onboard a ship to avoid a common peril, the law of general average requires all of the parties to the maritime adventure that benefited by the intentional sacrifice to contribute money on a pro-rata basis.

  2. P&I Clubs guideline
    The P&I Clubs are correctly called Protection and Indemnity Associations and number around 20 worldwide with the majority being United Kingdom based. The ship owner in taking out insurance with a particular association becomes a member of that Club. The Clubs are mutual in nature, which means that all costs involved in providing cover or paying out a claim to any one member is shared by all members. This is achieved by setting a rating or premium for the owner, known as an “advance call”, and is based on the owner’s history and exposure to risk.

  3. Marine cargo insurance underwriters
    Ships operate in a difficult environment and cargo may be lost or damaged during domestic and/or international transit. However, ocean carriers are well protected under the law against responsibility for loss or damage to cargo that might arise during the transportation of goods.

  4. P & I Insurance cover and Members of IG club
    At the heart of P and I is the concept of “mutuality”. Shipowners form a nonprofit association to protect and indemnify one another against third party liabilities. Unlike commercial insurance, the insured ship owners, meaning the “members” of the Club, are both the insurer and the insured. Each P and I Club is controlled by its members.

  5. Hull & Machinery underwriters
    A hull and machinery underwriter provides insurance coverage for boats, ships, and other naval assets. It gives protection to shipowners against hull, machinery and onboard equipment damages in the event of any perils encountered while on the water, including collision with another vessel, natural obstacles and other structures as well as storms and other natural disasters.

  6. Procedure for insurance claim
    A ship is insured against various risks by the Owner taking out different insurance policies. But for many reasons insurance claims often being denied by marine insurance providers. So that a shipowner can prosecute a claim accurately and successfully, the Master needs to send full details and documentation relating to any accidents or incidents resulting in damage to the ship, property, cargo, or personal injury. Nautical Institute publication, “The Mariner’s Role in Collecting Evidence” is a good source of guidance to shipmasters.

  7. The role of a insurance broker
    Marine insurance brokers play a significant role in helping companies and individuals procure marine cargo insurance, hull and machinery insurance, P and I cover, and other forms of insurance as the case may be. They are able to canvas the worldwide marine insurance market. The goal is to assist in getting the best terms of insurance cover at the most competitive premium rates.

  8. Marine salvage procedures
    Marine salvage contracts fall into two main categories. First, those which enable salvage services to be rendered on the basis that the compensation to be paid to the salvors will be determined after the completion of the services, either by settlement or if the parties cannot agree, then by a court or by an arbitrator

  9. Role of shipbrokers
    London and New York have always been viewed as major shipbroking centers. In recent years, many U.S. ship brokerage firms have relocated to offices in Stamford and Greenwich, Connecticut, and nearby communities. Of course, there is a large shipbroking presence in Singapore, Hamburg, as well as other cities.

  10. Sale & purchase brokers
    Sale and Purchase Brokers (S and P Brokers) are highly specialized shipbrokers. Their clients are typically ship owners. S and P Brokers serve as intermediaries in the business of selling and buying ships. They assist in the sale and purchase of second-hand tonnage and newbuilding. Their compensation is normally in the form of a commission.






Other info pages !

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Environmental issues How to prevent marine pollution
Cargo & Ballast Handling Safety Guideline
Safety in engine room Standard procedures




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