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Yacht Classifications Explained

Better Boat:

The ABCs of Classification

Owners moving from smaller yachts into those over roughly 80 feet will quickly learn a new alphabet: ABS, DNV, BV, LR, RINA, and more. These are organizations that set rules governing the construction, maintenance, and operation of yachts. Called “classification societies,” there are 13 members of the International Association of Classification Societies (www.iacs.org.uk), but many do not classify yachts, instead governing everything from container ships to supertankers. Classification societies started more than 250 years ago when Lloyd’s of London insurance underwriters set standards for the ships they insured, and the Lloyd’s Register of Shipping (LR) is the original classification society. Each society has rules for the design, construction, maintenance, and operation of a vessel and, while classification is theoretically voluntary on the part of the owner, it is really a gun-to-the-head choice. A requirement to register a yacht in many flag-states is being classed to an approved society, and some insurers will not cover an unclassed yacht. Aside from ensuring the safety and seaworthiness of the yacht, one argument in favor of classification is that it lowers the cost of insurance. But the reality is that even a large savings is unlikely to offset the added cost of yacht classification. Building “to class” is not inexpensive, since it often starts with plan approval, requires on-site surveyors to monitor the construction at certain stages, and then regular inspections after launching for the life of the yacht. Among the common classification societies for yachts are ABS (American Bureau of Shipping), BV (Bureau Veritas), DNV (Det Norske Veritas), LR (Lloyd’s Register), NK (Nippon Kaiji), and RINA (Registro Italiano Navale). In the case of the Ocean Alexander 120, she was built to the prestigious American Bureau of Shipping classification, and carries the ABS +A1 Commercial Yacht Service-AMS designation. Deciphering this, the plus sign (a stand-in for the Maltese Cross) means the yacht and her machinery have been built and tested under ABS survey for unrestricted ocean service. The A1 covers the hull and equipment under the rules for vessels in commercial yacht service, which generally means charter use. When the class is spoken, it would be “Maltese A-1.” The AMS indicates all machinery and systems onboard have met ABS standards and testing. For the collaboration between Ocean Alexander and Christensen Shipyards, the latter already had extensive experience building their megayachts to ABS class rules, just one more benefit.