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International Association of Classification Societies

The International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) is a collective of ten of the more than 50 organisations worldwide that provide classification of ships. These ten societies, together with an additional associate society, class around 94% of the entire commercial fleet involved in international trade worldwide. With a mantra of “dedicated to safe ships and clean seas”, IACS makes a unique contribution to maritime safety and regulation through technical support, ensuring standard compliance, research and development.

IACS, along with other classification societies outside of this group, establish and apply technical requirements for the design, construction and survey of marine-related facilities, most often ships and offshore structures. These requirements are then published as classification rules. Importantly, IACS stresses that classification societies are not “guarantors of safety of life or property at sea or the seaworthiness of a vessel” because classification societies have no control over how a vessel is operated and maintained in between surveys.

It is often easier to explain the role of classification by explaining what a classification society does not do, as there are many misconceptions about the role of class. Put simply, a classification society does not design, build, own, operate, manage, maintain, repair, finance, insure or charter ships and as an independent, self-regulating, externally audited, body, a classification society has no commercial interests related to ship design, ship building, ship ownership, ship operation, ship management, ship maintenance or repairs, insurance, or chartering.