Classification societies are private enterprises whose main aims are to gather information and specifications about the construction, maintenance and condition of a ship, which can be of interest to charterers, insurance companies, the maritime inspectorate and a possible buyer.
Where the Administration of a State is mainly concerned with the safety of life at sea, the classification society is mainly concerned with the commercial value of the ship.
We could also say that if a ship is safe before she leaves the harbour, that is:
than we can assume that the lives of the people on board are also safe.
On the other hand, if a ship is build with the best materials and engineering skills, well maintained, etc. and all these information are regularly entered in registers published by the Classification Society, than we can assume that such a ship deserves a greater confidence by a person concerned about the commercial value of the ship such as an eventual buyer, charterer or insurer.
As we mentioned already before, in certain States, Classification Societies may also be responsible for the tasks of the Administration. But, in any case the Administration remains responsible.
All information regarding a classed ship can be found in the Register Book or the Supplement to the Register Book.
The task of a Classification Society is not only to implement rules according to which ships must be constructed and which can be found in Rules and Regulations for the Construction of Steel Ships, but also to follow the construction of the ship in order to give it a certain class. After the construction the ship is closely followed by means of periodical inspections (annual surveys, intermediate surveys, docking surveys, special surveys at five yearly intervals, complete surveys of machinery at five yearly intervals) or continuous surveys (in that case the Classification Society regularly inspects part of the ship in order not to keep the ship too long in port).
The most important Classification Societies are:
For other Classification Societies, see Classification Societies
The class of a ship is usually indicated be means of symbols. All Classification Societies use different symbols.
The following certificates are currently used by Bureau Veritas:
Annex to Hull Classification Certificate. Cargo Installation of Ships Carrying Chemicals and/or Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk
Annex to Hull Classification Certificate. Cargo Installation of Liquefied Gas Carriers