on satisfactory compliance with society rules and the completion of the relevant surveys (IACS 2011).

Class rules are developed to assess the structural strength and integrity of the hull structure and the reliability and the function of the propulsion, steering, electrical, and mechanical systems. Class rules are developed and updated by technical committees consisting of eminent industry representatives from around the world who are experts in their field. The classification process consists of the following:


•   Technical review of design drawings and related documents by class engineers to verify compliance with applicable class rules;

•   Attendance at the shipyard by class surveyors during construction of the vessel or offshore structure and at relevant production facilities of key components to verify that the construction and products are in accordance with class rules;

•   Issuance of a classification certificate when the preceding steps have been satisfactorily completed; and

•   Once a vessel or offshore structure is in service, the performance by class surveyors of periodic surveys on board to verify that it is maintained to the applicable class rules over the lifetime that the vessel or structure remains in class.


Classification societies maintain an extensive database of damage and failure data from surveys performed on their classed vessels in service, which serves as a basis for developing and updating class rules. They also maintain an in-house research and development staff to conduct studies on maritime-related topics in support of class rules that exist or are under development. Classification societies have their own in-house training centers, where engineers and surveyors undergo regular training and certification to maintain their knowledge of the latest rules and regulations as well as state-of-the-art technology developments.

Although classification societies are nongovernmental organizations, flag state administrations—such as the U.S. Coast Guard; Transport Canada; the U.K. Maritime and Coastguard Agency; and those of Panama, Liberia, and others— under whose laws the vessel or structure is registered will delegate the inspection and survey of the vessel or structure to classification societies.

In summary, classification societies have long been viewed as independent and trusted agents by the industry they serve, including government regulatory agencies. Classification societies have no conflict of interest with the parties that they serve, such as builders, operators, charterers, marine underwriters, and financial institutions. The technical development of the classification rules is done in a transparent fashion with industry input. Classification certifies adherence to the class rules over the service life of a vessel or offshore structure.

Some lessons learned from classification societies have applications to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement or the Ocean Energy Safety Institute (OESI) in enhancing safety in offshore drilling and production, including best available and safest technologies (BAST). One example is the life-cycle

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