Ship class

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Ship class designated in the shipping different areas of systematic classification (classification) of sea and inland waterway vessels .

  • Usually, a ship class is a group of ships that belong to the same series and thus have a similar appearance. This happens, for example, with shipping companies or navies that combine a group of similar or identical ships in one class.
  • Ship class can also mean a classification of ships with a similar purpose or comparable size.
  • Another meaning is the classification of ships and the assessment of their structural condition by a classification society . This can best be compared with the periodically recurring technical inspections of motor vehicles on land.

The term ship class is fundamentally to be distinguished from that of the ship type (or the type of ship or type of ship), which refers to the similarity of purpose, type of propulsion or the like. Shipyards usually refer to the ship classes they have developed as “type”.

Ship class in the narrower sense

A ship class represents a group of ships that belong to the same series , thus were manufactured in multiple designs in the same way and therefore have an almost identical appearance. The term class is used primarily in navies . In merchant shipping, ship classes are usually assigned to a number of comparable ships of a shipping company. However, it does not always have to be ships of the same series.

In some cases, units that represent a modification of the original class are managed as a separate class, although the external differences can be very small. The USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) is run as a class of its own, as the internal configuration differs greatly from the Kitty Hawk class .

The DGzRS also groups its rescue cruisers and lifeboats into ship classes.


There are different naming conventions for ship classes in the various naval forces around the world. In many cases, the class is named after the type ship , i.e. the first model of the series built (e.g. in the USA ), but usually also after the ship that first went into active service. In some navies, the class is named after the oldest ship in the class, which can lead to the renaming of the entire ship class after a possible decommissioning or the loss of a unit.

The name of a class can also be independent of the individual names of the ships. A British frigate type was called the tribal class because the individual ships were named after tribes (English tribe ). The Russian Kirov class retained its name, although the Kirov was later renamed Admiral Ushakov .

During the Cold War , Soviet ships were given NATO code names, so the submarines of the Soviet Akula class were given the name Typhoon class . At the same time, another Soviet class was given the NATO code name Akula .

In the German Navy , ship classes are internally designated with a number. Such as F124 , while informally the name of the type ship Sachsen also denotes the class.

Ship class in the broader sense

See: type of ship .

Ship classification

The process of evaluating a ship for classification into a ship class is called the classification of ships or ship classification . It is carried out by so-called classification societies . The ship is technically examined and its structural condition as well as its suitability for the transport of certain goods or for certain journeys and areas are assessed. The result of the classification is recorded in a classification certificate. The classification of seagoing vessels is a prerequisite for belonging to the merchant navy . A proper classification certificate is also a prerequisite for insuring the ship and cargo.

The classification societies have defined abbreviations for the various types. The class symbol is the combination of the abbreviations of the individual standards. Classification societies check at regular intervals whether the conditions that belong to a certain class are also being met. Well-known classification societies are for example:

There are a variety of class symbols and additions. A typical example is GL + 100 A5 ; This means that the hull (i.e. usually the hull and deck structure ) comply 100% with the building regulations of Germanischer Lloyd, and that this certification must be renewed after 5 years.

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