As yachts become larger, more complex and sophisticated, the role of classification societies is becoming ever more important. Helping designers, shipyards and owners to comply with the regulatory framework surrounding yacht design, construction and maintenance, the rise of classification societies ensures that the majority of vessels on the water are safe and operational.

There are dozens of organisations worldwide providing classification services but only a select group make up the proudly self-regulating International Association of Classification Societies (IACS), whose members provide services to nearly all the world’s commercial and leisure tonnage. Within this group, however, many uphold a ‘hierarchy’ of class societies for the construction of superyachts, with the stamp of certain societies meaning higher resale values and lower insurance premiums.

While many acknowledge classification societies as vital for safe operation and keeping insurance affordable, they have also historically come under criticism in the superyacht industry, with many builders, designers and owners often bemoaning onerous classification rules. Classification societies are also considered as being somewhat conservative when it comes to accepting innovative designs or the latest technology.

As independent, self-regulating bodies, classification societies have no commercial interest in design, building, ownership, operation, management, maintenance, insurance or chartering. While this is obviously important from a safety standpoint, it can mean that internal processes are naturally slow-moving as there is greater incentive for safe operation than pushing boundaries. A gradual shift within the sector, however, has seen some societies become increasingly aware of the need to change both their processes and the approvals system in order to keep up with a demand for innovation in yacht design.

The Superyacht Intelligence Agency would like to hear what you think about classification societies, and invites you to get in touch to provide your opinion on whether you think they add value and in which areas they could improve. Feedback can be sent in anonymously to:

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