What is An IMO Number?


In 1987 the IMO (International Maritime Organization) introduced its ship identification system to improve maritime safety and to prevent maritime fraud. A unique reference number is assigned to each ship for identification purposes. The unique seven-digit vessel number the company issues to each vessel, preceded by the letters IMO, stays with it until it is scrapped and never changes, regardless of the ship’s owner, country of registration or name. 

Which vessels are eligible for an IMO number?

Any fishing vessel, refrigerated cargo vessel or supply vessel 12 meters in length or above, authorized to operate outside waters of national jurisdiction and including those with a non-steel hull construction, is eligible for an IMO number.

Any fishing vessel over 100 GT, passenger ships of 100 GT and above and all cargo ships of 300 GT and above are also eligible for an IMO number.

Why do fishing vessels need an IMO number?

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing worldwide accounts for up to 26 million metric tons of fish annually, worth up to $23.5 billion. IMO numbers are an essential tool in the fight against illegal fishing because they help to improve monitoring, control, surveillance and enforcement of fishing operations. Fishing vessels became eligible to apply for IMO numbers in 2013.

Will I have to pay?

No, obtaining an IMO number is free.

How do I obtain an IMO number?

Applications can be made online at http://imonumbers.ihs.com using the free registration system, or you can download a form and send it to IHS Maritime & Trade address.

Where should I display my IMO number?

Seagoing vessels of 100 GT and above are required to display identification numbers clearly and permanently in a visible place, either on the vessel’s hull or superstructure. The IMO number should be inserted on a vessel’s Certificate of Registry.

Fishing vessels may mark the IMO number either on the stern or stern quarter with the name and port, avoiding the part of the hull where nets may obscure them. Alternatively, vessels may display the number on the hull or superstructure sides, with the call sign and/or fishing number.

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