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Thursday, November 1, 2012

MT Pratibha Cauvery runs aground - what is IMO Number ?

Cyclone Nilam brought along its tide MT Pratibha Cauvery – the tanker vessel is now struck in Nochikuppam area near Pattinapakkam [Foreshore Estate] – one life lost and some missing from the ill-fated ship.  The vessel Pratibha Cauvery is a  Tanker vessel of 1981 built with 16949 GRT ; Length overall (LOA)        174.05 (MTR);  Indian flagged with call sign: VWQU and IMO: 7920754. 

It is owned by Mumbai based Pratibha Shipping Company and forms part of the fleet of Pratibha Indrayani, Pratibha Chandrabhaga, Pratibha Warna, Pratibha Tapi, Pratibha Neera, Pratibha Koyna, Pratibha Bheema – according to the website of the Company, which was incorporated in Feb 1995.  The site provides that since Dec 2002, the ownership of the Company is with the  A.N. Pawar Family.

On seeing the vessel closer to the sands of Pattinapakkam, there are apprehensions on how the vessel would ever be floated back and whether the old double hull would withstand the batterings of the sea and the strains of salvage acts.

Sure you know of IMO – the  International Maritime Organization, earlier  known as the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO) until 1982.  IMO  was established in Geneva in 1948, and came into force ten years later, meeting for the first time in 1959.   IMO, headquartered in London, United Kingdom, the IMO is a specialized agency of the United Nations with 170 Member States and three Associate Members. The IMO's primary purpose is to develop and maintain a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping and its remit today includes safety, environmental concerns, legal matters, technical co-operation, maritime security and the efficiency of shipping.

You might have noticed that just like our Registration No. for Motor vehicles from which you can identify the State and place of Registration and identify a Vehicle, there is an unique code through which ships are identified too.  This is more complicated, going by the International nature of vessels and the need for having a unique identification, which will never confuse nor confront with anyother vessel. 

As could be seen the stranded MT Pratibha Cauvery is identified as : IMO: 7920754.   This is known as IMO Ship Identity.  As you would know,  the name of Ship can be changed, the ownership can change, so also the flag of Registry i.e., where the vessel is registered but this IMO number will not change. This IMO No. would remain unchanged upon transfer of ship to other flag(s) and would etched through its lifetime incorporated in the Ship’s Certificate which has been made mandatory under SOLAS.

The IMO ship identification number scheme was introduced in 1987 through a resolution and is  aimed at enhancing "maritime safety, and pollution prevention and to facilitate the prevention of maritime fraud". It aimed at assigning a permanent number to each ship for identification purposes. The implementation of the scheme became mandatory for all ships as of 1 January 1996.  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. Passenger ships should carry the marking on a horizontal surface visible from the air. Ships should also be marked with their ID numbers internally.
The IMO ship identification number is made of the three letters "IMO" followed by the seven-digit number assigned to all ships by IHS Fairplay (formerly known as Lloyd's Register-Fairplay) when constructed. This is a unique seven digit number that is assigned to propelled, sea-going merchant ships of 100 GT and above upon keel laying. 

Vessels solely engaged in Fishing; ships without mechanical means of propulsion; pleasure yachts; special service ships; hopper barges, floating docks; war ships; wooden ships will not have IMO Numbering.  There is something known as a check digit, the one on the rightmost which adds integrity to the IMO number. 

After its implementation, there have been some amendments which added registered owner identification number also.  The IMO unique company and registered owner identification number is a number, allocated at the time of issuance of a document.  For new companies and registered owners, the assignment of the IMO unique company and registered owner identification number should be made when the company's ship is entitled to fly its flag.

The Company which provides the IMO Ship No. is - IHS Fairplay (IHSF), the sole authority with responsibility for assigning and validating these numbers. The Numbers are issued from the global maritime databases maintained by IHSF and consist of a unique seven digit number. IHSF manages this Scheme on behalf of the IMO.   In the 20 years since the introduction of the Scheme, the IMO Ship Number has become a universal public reference for ships, and continues to be the unique ship identifier adopted in new systems, such as AIS and LRIT.   The Scheme assigns IMO Ship Numbers to propelled, sea-going merchant ships of 100 GT and above with exceptions as noted earlier in this post. 

Further to the permanent and  visible marking on the ship, the IMO no. is to be marked on plans, manuals and other documents too.  The IMO number is never reassigned to another vessel.  Here is the details of the vessel obtained from by furnishing the IMO No. as 7920754

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
1st Nov. 2o12.


  1. Many Thanx for this informative post. It gives a better understanding of the ground realities .

  2. Great post - perfect explanation to IMO - Vaseegarab

  3. Great to make a hard concept appear easy - Li na

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