International Association of Classification Societies

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The International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) is a technically based organization consisting of twelve marine classification societies headquartered in London.

Marine classification is a system for promoting the safety of life, property and the environment primarily through the establishment and verification of compliance with technical and engineering standards for the design, construction and life-cycle maintenance of ships, offshore units and other marine-related facilities. These standards are contained in rules established by each Society. IACS provides a forum within which the member societies can discuss, research and adopt technical criteria that enhance maritime safety.


IACS was founded on September 11, 1968, in Hamburg, Germany. IACS consists of 12 member societies. More than 90% of the world's cargo carrying ships’ tonnage is covered by the classification standards set by the twelve member societies of IACS. (Source: IACS Website)

IACS can trace its origins back to the International Load Line Convention of 1930 and its recommendations. The convention recommended collaboration between classification societies to secure "as much uniformity as possible in the application of the standards of strength upon which freeboard is based...".

Following the Convention, Registro Italiano Navale (RINA) hosted the first conference of major societies in 1939 - attended by ABS, BV, DNV, GL, LR and NK - which agreed on further cooperation between the societies.

A second major class society conference, held in 1955, led to the creation of working parties on specific topics and, in 1968, to the formation of IACS by seven leading societies. In 1969, IACS was given consultative status by the IMO. Its membership has increased since that time to the current thirteen members. DNV and GL have agreed to merge their respective businesses in 2013, the new entity will be called DNV GL.


Although IACS is a non-governmental organization, it also plays a role within the International Maritime Organization (IMO), for which IACS provides technical support and guidance and develops unified interpretations of the international statutory regulations developed by the member states of the IMO. Once adopted, these interpretations are applied by each IACS member society, when certifying compliance with the statutory regulations on behalf of authorizing flag States.

IACS has consultative status with the IMO, and remains the only non-governmental organization with observer status which also develops and applies technical rules that are reflective of the aims embodied within IMO conventions. The link between the international maritime regulations, developed by the IMO and the classification rule requirements for a ship’s hull structure and essential engineering systems is codified in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).


IACS is governed by a Council, with each Member represented on the Council by a senior management executive. The position of Chairman of the Council is rotated between the members on an annual basis. Reporting to the Council is the General Policy Group (GPG), made up of a senior management representative from each member society. The GPG develops and implements actions giving effect to the policies, directions and long term plans of the Council. The chair of GPG is taken by the Member holding the Council chair. Much of the technical development work of IACS is undertaken by a number of working parties (WP), the members of which are drawn from the technical, engineering, survey or quality management staff of the member societies.

Duty and responsibility for membership

More than 50 organizations worldwide define their activities as providing marine classification. Any classification society that meets the conditions of membership may apply for membership within IACS. To remain a member of IACS, all members are required to demonstrate continued compliance with quality standards as determined by periodic audits.

To promoting maritime safety and clean seas, IACS and its individuals carry out research and development on marine-related topics, providing technical support and verifying compliance with published standards.

The classification process begins with the evaluation by the class society of a submitted design to determine its compliance with the rules. During construction, classification society surveyors attend the vessel to verify that it is built in conformance with the drawings and to the rules. On delivery, the vessel will receive periodic surveys by the society to verify that it is being maintained to the required standard. These surveys generally follow a five-year cycle of annual, intermediate and special surveys with the extent of the survey varying depending upon the age of the vessel or offshore unit and the type of survey being conducted.

For a vessel to remain ‘in class’ it must meet the class rule requirements at the completion of each survey. Should a vessel sustain in-service damage, the vessel’s owner advises the classification society of record so that a damage survey can be arranged. If the surveyor decides that the damaged vessel no longer meets the rules, the owner must carry out repairs to bring the vessel back into compliance if it is to remain in class.

Withdrawal of services

In November 2012, following action by the China Classification Society (CCS), all members of IACS had ended Iran-related certification work. A targeted campaign by United Against Nuclear Iran led CCS and other IACS classification societies to exit Iran. Without certification from IACS firms, vessels are largely unable to secure insurance cover or call at international ports.[1]

Member of organization

The members of IACS are:


  1. "China ship firm ends Iran work as Tehran feels more heat". Reuters. 21 November 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. IACS Press Release, 3 May 2011
  3. "IACS". IACS. Retrieved 2014-08-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links