What is International Association of Classification Societies (IACS)?

Over 90% of the world’s merchant shipping tonnage is classified by the 12 member societies of the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS). Dedicated to safe ships and clean seas, IACS makes a unique contribution to maritime safety and regulation through technical support, compliance verification and research and development. IACS was formed in 1968 to promote high standards in safety, pollution prevention and to liaison closely with the shipping industry and organisations.

IACS members class a huge number of ships and most international administrations use the IACS members rules and regulations as the basis of their fleet’s license to operate including compliance with mandatory requirements. The members carry out surveys each year and otherwise as well as playing an active part in the workings of the IMO. It has a voice in the development of international conventions and also in providing technical support to member states of the IMO. This extent of the reach of the IACS eliminates substandard ships and increases the sophistication of ship design and operations. IACS members includes ABS (US of A), BV (France), CCS (China), CRS (Croatia), DNV GL (Germany), IRS (India), KR (South Korea), LR (UK), PRS (Poland), RINA (Italy), RS (Russia) and ClassNK (Japan).


The Contribution

With its extensive knowledge of the industry and fleet, IACS provides a massive contribution to international shipping and regulations, depending obviously on the input from the members. Although it is a non-governmental organisation, it holds a consultative status with the IMO and regularly participates in the capacity of an observer as well as an adviser to the IMO and the member states. This includes participation in the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), Maritime Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), International Safety Management (ISM) as well as any other sub-committees and such.

IACS had a vital role in the implementation of ISM, a mainstay in the shipping industry today, wherein the IACS developed guidelines and provided interpretations of the ISM Code. Having the majority of the world’s fleet under its purview and the extensive knowledge associated with it, IACS also enables cooperation with the Port State Control (PSC) to ensure high quality in the maritime field.

In the ever increasing world of regulations paperwork, IACS members support and comply with the regulatory demands. With rising demands and a focus on skilled workers and the expertise of the human element, IACS’ role keeps on becoming more and more vital.

Enhance Survey Programs

The ESP was introduced for oil tankers and bulk carriers by the IACS in 1993. Included in SOLAS Chapter 9, it came into full effect in 1996.

The ESP requires full planning of the in advance of the periodical classification surveys and associated minimum requirements with increasing stringency and maintenance of onboard documents. While it might seem cumbersome for this, in turn, may increase the efficiency of merchant shipping and reduces risks associated therein with regard to the same. Its motto of safe ships and clean seas is indeed adhered to with the enforcement of such standards.

Transfer Of Class

This agreement to be able to prevent transfer the class was enforced in 1995. In this, the objective was to prevent the transfer of a ship from one class with one IACS member to another to avoid unnecessary surveys and repairs. Under this agreement, the transfer can happen only if the pending classification surveys and associated documentation have been completed. All such transfers are promulgated to PSC organisations and other parties of interest.

IACS Activities

Ship Classification Services

Classification is essential to the structural and engineering design, construction and operation of ships and affects shipbuilding, maintenance and repair, shipbroking, chartering, insurance etc. The certificate issued is an imperative document which confirms that the ship has been built as per the classification society’s standards and that she adheres to the level of the quality associated with such society. To maintain its class while in service, a ship must be surveyed annually, with a major survey every 5 years. These surveys get stricter as the ship gets older. Failure to adhere to the quality standards of the classification societies renders the certificate liable to be invalid.

Ensuring High Standards

To ensure highest standards as the norm for IACS members, IACS introduced the QSCS (Quality System Certification Scheme) in 1991. This scheme embraces management systems with respect to ship classification and statutory work carried out by members. QSCS sets monitors standards to create uniformity in the operations of the members. The members play a vital role in strengthening the QSCS. Compliance with the requirements of the QSCS is mandatory for membership into the IACS. The certificate of conformity to the QSCS is valid for 3 years subject to review as per surveys and monitoring.


IACS has publications provide guidelines to members. This area provides access to technical resolutions produced by IACS.

The IACS Green Book contains IACS Resolutions and Recommendations in force a The Green Book is updated when an IACS new or revised Resolution or Recommendation is uploaded. The IACS Green Book is revised at the end of each working day. The annexe to the Green Book contains all adopted IACS Resolutions and their future entry into force dates. The IACS Blue Book contains the IACS Green Book as well as previous revisions of IACS publications and historical data. The IACS Blue Book is updated and published once a year only.

A Safer Future

Being in the centre of the maritime industry, IACS are at the leading edge of developments with respect to advancements in safety of new and existing ships as well as with regard to the concept for the future in the industry. Providing the members with technical knowhow and suggestions, IACS is becoming more and more important in an increasingly complex and accountable industry.


  1. https://www.iacs.org.uk/
  2. Maritime Legislation and Shipboard Management for Deck Officers by Capt. Naik and Capt. Dubey

Disclaimer: The views mentioned above are of the author only. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Marine Insight do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendation on any course of action to be followed by the reader.

The article or images cannot be reproduced, copied, shared or used in any form without the permission of the author and Marine Insight. 

About Author

Shilavadra Bhattacharjee is a shipbroker with a background in commercial operations after having sailed onboard as a Third Officer. His interests primarily lie in the energy sector, books and travelling.

Related Posts


  1. The minimum requirements to become a full member of IACS have changed. There are no quantative criterias anymore. The only criteria is quality now.

  2. IACS members have done a great service by maintaining the standards of the vessels being build.
    Last couple of decades were the busiest in the ship building industry and there were plenty of low quality ships which compromises the safety of the seafarers on board. If not IACS we would have had lots of compromises leading to incidents on sea, damaging the cargo and hurting the seafarers while polluting the sea.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *