THE INTERNATIONAL Maritime Organization is considering a proposal to increase the number of digits used in the IMO Ship Identification Number Scheme from seven to eight.

The IMO is conducting a study to assess the potential impact of such a change on stakeholders across the global maritime sector.

Every ship registered under the identification scheme is allocated a unique identifying number made up of the letters IMO and seven digits.

The number must be permanently and visibly marked on the hull of the ship and the number must be noted on the ship’s certificates, plans, manuals and other documents.

The IMO number remains unchanged throughout a ship’s life, even if its flag, ownership, name or type changes.

The IMO introduced the identification scheme in 1987 on a voluntary basis. It aimed to enhance maritime safety and pollution prevention and counter maritime fraud.

According to the IMO, there are approximately 900,000 number combinations in its current seven-digit format. By the end of September 2022, just more than half of those had been assigned.

The organisation said it estimates that enough identification numbers are still available to cover the needs of the maritime community for the next 20 years.