Classification: Statutory certification explained
by Frances and Michael Howorth
The classification process The classification of yachts may be regarded as the development and worldwide implementation of published rules and regulations which – in conjunction with proper care and conduct on the part of the builder, owner and operator – provides for the structural strength and, where necessary, the watertight integrity of the hull. The same rules cover any appendages to the hull itself.
Classification rules lay down regulations that govern the effectiveness, safety and reliability of the propulsion and steering systems and other features, as well as the auxiliary systems which establish and maintain basic conditions on board and ensure that guests and crew can be safely carried while the yacht is at sea, at anchor, or moored inside a harbour.
Owners sometimes see classification as an unnecessary complication offering no real advantage for the cost. Some even suggest that the classification societies exist simply to make a profit out of a yacht builder’s desire to build a saleable product.
‘This is a misconception and one that needs to be addressed,’ Paul Martin, a principal engineer at DNV, points out: ‘Classification societies are independent bodies without a commercial stake in the build, and are therefore in a unique position to make sure that the yacht meets requirements without considering commercial impact. This enables yachts to be built with safety of the yacht, her crew, other vessels and the environment given maximum priority, irrespective of cost.’
Owners sometimes see classification as an unnecessary complication offering no real advantage for the cost
‘Because most classification societies have enormous experience,’ he continues, ‘as well as a lot of data on the failure of various types of vessels, machinery and other connected disciplines, they can bring these to bear on new projects ensuring fees are justified, and at the same time enhancing safety against the most up-to-date maritime knowledge and good safe practice.’
Yachts are said to be ‘in class’ when the classification society believes that its rules and regulations have been complied with, unless it has granted a special dispensation from compliance for a particular aspect. In order to decide whether a vessel should achieve in-class status surveyors appraise design, surveys and reports on the vessel’s construction, machinery, apparatus, materials, components, equipment, production methods and processes of all kinds for the purpose of verifying their compliance with plans, specifications and rules, codes of practice, or their fitness for particular requirements.
Class surveyors can also provide other technical inspection and advisory services relating to yachts and maintain these provisions during periodical visits to ascertain that the vessel is complying with classification society regulations at all times. Any modification which would affect class must always receive prior approval by the society.
When a yacht is going to be built to class, construction plans and all particulars relevant to the hull, equipment and machinery have to be submitted for the society’s approval before the work commences. Subsequent modifications or additions to the scantlings, arrangements or equipment shown on the approved plans must also be submitted for appraisal.
Implementation Statutory aspects deal with issues such as stability, life-saving appliances, pollution prevention and structural fire protection. Generally there are quite clear dividing lines between class and statutory requirements, although there are a few exceptions.