International Maritime Organization (IMO) numbers are unique identifiers for ships and for registered ship owners and management companies. They were introduced under the SOLAS Convention to improve maritime safety and security and to reduce maritime fraud.
Ship Identification Number
The ship number consists of the three letters "IMO" followed by a unique seven-digit number assigned to sea-going merchant ships under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).
In 1987 the IMO adopted Resolution A.600(15), "aimed at enhancing maritime safety, and pollution prevention and to facilitate the prevention of maritime fraud" by assigning to each ship a permanent identification number which would continue despite any subsequent change in the vessel's name, ownership or flag. When made mandatory, through SOLAS regulation XI/3 adopted in 1994 and which came into force on 1 January 1996, it was applied to cargo vessels that are at least 300 gross tons (gt) and passenger vessels of at least 100 gt. In the SOLAS Convention "cargo ships" means "ships which are not passenger ships". The IMO scheme does not however apply to:
- Vessels solely engaged in fishing
- Ships without mechanical means of propulsion
- Pleasure yachts
- Ships engaged on special service (e.g. lightships, SAR vessels)
- Hopper barges
- Hydrofoils, air cushion vehicles
- Floating docks and structures classified in a similar manner
- Ships of war and troopships
- Wooden ships
In December 2002, the Diplomatic Conference on Maritime Security adopted a number of measures aimed at enhancing security of ships and port facilities. This included a modification to SOLAS Regulation XI-1/3 to require ships' identification numbers to be permanently marked in a visible place either on the ship's hull or superstructure as well as internally and on the ship's certificates. Passenger ships should also carry the marking on a horizontal surface visible from the air.
Assignment and Structure
When introduced, the IMO adopted the existing unique ship numbers applied to ships listed by Lloyd's Register since 1963. IMO ship identification numbers are assigned by IHS Fairplay (previously Lloyd's Register-Fairplay)
For new vessels the IMO number is assigned to a hull during construction, generally upon keel laying. Many vessels which fall outside the mandatory requirements of SOLAS have numbers allocated by Lloyd's Register or IHS Fairplay in the same numerical series, including fishing vessels and commercial yachts.
The IMO ship identification number is made of the three letters "IMO" followed by the seven-digit number. This consists of a six-digit sequential unique number followed by a check digit. The integrity of an IMO number can be verified using its check digit. This is done by multiplying each of the first six digits by a factors 2 to 7 corresponding to their position from left to right, and adding those products together. The rightmost digit of this sum is the check digit. For example, for IMO 7654329: 7×7 + 6×6 + 5×5 + 4×4 + 3×3 + 2×2 = 139.
Company and Registered Owner Identification Number
In May 2005, IMO adopted a new SOLAS regulation XI-1/3-1 on the mandatory company and registered owner identification number scheme, with entry into force on 1 January 2009.
The Regulation provides that every ship owing and management company shall have a unique identification number and other amendments require these numbers to be added to the relevant certificates and documents in the International Safety Management Code (ISM) and the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS). Like the IMO ship number, the company identification number is a seven-digit number with the prefix IMO. For example, for the ship Atlantic Star, IMO 5304986 refers to the ship manager Pullmantur Cruises Ship Management Ltd and IMO 5364264 to her registered owner, Pullmantur Cruises Empress Ltd.
- International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea
- ENI number, a comparable system for European barges and other inland waterway vessels
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