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The endorsement of a classification society which is awarded once a ship meets a minimum standard in design, quality of construction, etc. A vessel is classed in this way for a definite period of years, and on its expiry it must be resurveyed if its owners wish it to retain its original classification. In addition, after any accident such as a fire a ship has to be resurveyed to establish its classification. The advantages for a shipowner to have his vessels classified and to keep them ‘in class’ are numerous, as the construction and maintenance of a ship up to the standard required is mandatory for almost all insurance, chartering, financing, and so on, and also for the issue of statutory certificates required by international conventions such as SOLAS.

In 2003 there were nineteen classification societies that issued such classifications. Among the best known are the American Bureau of Shipping, Bureau Veritas, and Lloyd's Register, the latter granting the well-known classification 100A1, where 100 = suitable for seagoing service, A = constructed or accepted into Lloyd's Register class and maintained in good and efficient condition, and 1 = good and efficient anchoring and mooring equipment. The mark indicating that a ship has been built to Lloyd's Register class is a Formée Cross, sometimes erroneously described as a Maltese Cross. It was adopted in 1853 as a distinguishing mark for all ships built under special Lloyd's survey anywhere in the world. Currently most classification societies encourage ‘running surveys’ whereby ships on constant voyages can have inspections on a regular basis, avoiding the need for a costly lay-up every fourth or fifth year. See also shipbuilding.

Subjects: Maritime History.

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