Build number

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Ship's bell and number plate of a ship from the Lindø shipyard

The construction number or shipyard number of a ship is a label assigned by the shipyard, comparable to the serial number of other industrially manufactured products.


Ships and the majority of boats are given a build number from the shipyard or the boat manufacturer when they are built. In shipyards in particular , this number is in most cases a sequential number that shows the number of ships built at the shipyard. In the case of larger series of ships, but especially in the case of boats, other sequences of digits are also used. For example, some series have certain prefixed number or letter combinations to identify the type of construction with the number of units attached.

While shipyards assign the construction numbers according to their own nomenclature , these have been specified for new pleasure craft and other small vehicles in the United States since 1984 and in Europe since 1998. The system introduced as the Hull Identification Number (HIN) is similar to that of the chassis numbers in motor vehicles. The HIN must be affixed to the stern on the right-hand side and consists of twelve characters for US boats and fourteen characters for European boats.


On the one hand, the emergence of construction numbers is linked to the shift from traditional to industrial shipbuilding . In the past, there were shipbuilding sites on which various shipbuilders built ships with their own tools, the quality of which was then primarily linked to the respective builder, but later permanently assigned shipyards with a higher degree of mechanization emerged, which with the introduction of iron shipbuilding became real industrial companies correspondingly high annual output of delivered units. In the German area, this process associated with the introduction of building numbers can be observed in the second half of the 19th century, and in Great Britain a little earlier. A precise assignment of the introduction of the shipyard numbers is not always possible, since numbers were often assigned retrospectively for ships that were already built by the respective shipyard. A second factor that is closely linked to the emergence of hull numbers is the introduction of ship registers , the task of which is also to clearly assign the ships to the corresponding register data.

Construction number plates: old and new


  • Alexander Jenak: Numbers salad: Thoughts on the keyword construction numbers in GDR shipbuilding . In: Ship and Time . No. 41 , 1995, pp. 7-9 .

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