Bureau Veritas Surveyors on board - Credit BV

Classification of ships in service

Maintaining compliance throughout a vessel’s in-service life

A lot can happen in 25 years or more. With the average vessel lifetime spanning nearly a quarter of a century, ships can end up operating in an industry that looks quite different than it did when they first left the yard.

Ship owners and operators have an interest in maintaining their fleet to high levels of safety and performance and extending their ships’ in-service life as long as possible. Maintaining compliance with existing class Rules and international regulations and preparing your vessel to comply with new and future standards is therefore of paramount importance.

Classification is a continuous process throughout your vessels’ life. Through regular class surveys, Classification societies can provide the trusted independent approval that it has remained fit and safe for its intended purpose.


We are by your side throughout your ships’ in-service life, helping you to navigate any change your continued operations require.


Our surveyors intervene regularly all through a vessel’s operating life to ensure that it is compliant to regional and international regulations and its applicable class Rules. In partnership with ship owners, yards underwriters and charterers, we offer independent and trusted approvals, shape safety best practices and help mitigate risk.


As shipping comes under ever more stringent emissions regulations as part of the IMO’s short-term measures and the EU’s Fit for 55 proposal package, companies must report and act on their carbon footprint. We offer you guidance and class notations for the safe use of future fuels and other emissions reducing technologies, as well as our Veristar Green tool to assist in compliance.


As part of our digital classification offer, we offer safer and cost-optimized surveys using remote techniques. By using drones, robots and augmented reality, we can help you minimize on-site survey costs and risks.

Redouane Assad - Fleet Management Director Bureau Veritas M&O

Fleet Management Director

Bureau Veritas M&O

For in-service ships, classification is not a starting point but a journey. As a classification partner, we want to work with our clients to ensure that their vessels are as safe and risk free as possible throughout their operating life. We want to give them the tools for a long and compliant career.


Port State Control (PSC) inspectors verify compliance with the requirements of international conventions of foreign ships entering ports. Our PSC Ready app helps ensure a smooth inspection flow and reduce the risk of detention or delay.


Keeping a ship in service may mean extensive modifications, either to improve performance or to adapt the vessel to new requirements. In both cases, our surveyors will support with plan approval, yard inspections and selecting the new classification Rules and notations that will best apply to the vessel in future.


Bureau Veritas is a Recognized Organization (RO) delegated by 150 Flag State Authorities – with full delegation from 120 – for statutory certification. As well as delivering Class approvals, we can therefore certify that vessels and equipment adhere to standards set by international and regional organizations as transposed by individual Flags.

Why partner with Bureau Veritas for your in-service ship classification?

We recognize the demands of today’s shipping industry and its impact on your classification needs. We aim to bring you our expertise in a flexible and pragmatic way that helps you to keep operating and able to answer to end-clients’ needs safely and efficiently.

We believe in collaboration and continuous contact with our clients and the industry as a whole to ensure that we are meeting your needs, no matter how they change. Our offer is based on a holistic approach that aims to meet each client wherever they are in their particular journey and help them to achieve their ambitions.

Ships in service Classification FAQ

  • What types of classification surveys do ships in-service need?

    Following delivery, every classed in-service ship is subject to a program of periodic surveys based on a five-year cycle:

    • Annual surveys
    • Intermediate surveys
    • Class renewal surveys (also known as special surveys) which are held every five years 

    In addition to this main survey cycle, ships also undergo detailed shaft surveys, boiler surveys, machinery surveys and surveys of items associated with specific additional class notations.
    The content and rigour of these surveys vary as the ship ages or its condition deteriorates.

  • Can the class survey requirements change during my vessel’s service life?

    Yes, they can under several circumstances. For example, if a ship undergoes specific refitting or conversion it will therefore be classed under different or additional Rules and notations. Equally, as regulations evolve, Classification societies will modify their Rules and their offer of additional notations accordingly. Compliance is not a one-time achievement, but a box owners must continue to check throughout a ship’s in-service life.

  • How long does an annual class survey take?

    The duration of an annual survey depends largely on the size, use condition and age of the vessel in question. Some vessels may require dry docking and ultrasonic thickness measurements (UTM) to be taken on the hull should the class surveyor deem it necessary. The time needed for these checks can take anywhere between several hours to several days to complete.

  • Can an in-service ship’s class be suspended?

    Yes it can, for example if a ship does not operate according to the Rule requirements, or if any mandatory class surveys are missed such as annual, intermediate and renewal surveys. When this happens, the Classification society will publish the information and inform the ship owner, its Flag Administration and its underwriters. 

    The International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) has published detailed procedural requirements (PR 1C), transposed to Bureau Veritas Rules Pt A, Ch 2, Section 3 on the circumstances under which Class maybe suspended or withdrawn.

  • How can I change my ship to BV class?

    Specific requirements exist to guide the transfer of classification from one society to another for existing ships. The transfer of class between IACS members must be preceded by the satisfactory completion of a survey done in accordance to Bureau Veritas Rules Pt A, Ch 2, Sec1, § 3 and IACS procedural requirements (PR 1A)  

  • Where can Bureau Veritas provide classification for in-service ships?

    We can offer classification for in-service ships globally, thanks to our extensive surveyor network and 180 survey centers. We can offer a timely and flexible service to help you reduce downtime and return promptly to operation should all criteria be met.

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