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The Unique Vessel Identifier (UVI) is a global unique number that is assigned to a vessel to ensure traceability through reliable, verified and permanent identification of the vessel. The UVI will be with the vessel for its entire life, regardless of changes in flag, ownership, name etc. It is the key component of the Global Record and it is necessary to maintain its integrity.

The Report of the Expert Consultation on the Development of a Comprehensive Global Record of Fishing Vessels. Rome, 25–28 February 2008 clearly identified the implementation of unique vessel identifiers (UVI) as an essential prerequisite for a successful Global Record. COFI 30 in 2012 recognized the necessity of a global UVI as a key component of the Global Record to identify and track vessels, and suggested the UVI, as a first step, be applied to vessels of 100 gross tonnage and above, i.e. Phase 1 of the Global Record. An independent study commissioned by FAO concluded that the IMO Number was the most suitable UVI for Phase 1 on the basis of efficiency, compatibility and technical considerations.

The IMO Ship Identification Number Scheme is an integral part of the shipping sector. The IMO Number is required under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974, for all cargo ships of 300 gross tonnage and above as well as all passengers ships of 100 gross tonnage and above.

IHS-Maritime (formerly Lloyd’s Register-Fairplay), a private company, is managing the Scheme on behalf of IMO. Despite not being compulsory for fishing vessels, there are already approximately 20 thousand fishing vessels currently included in the IHS–Maritime database.

In 2013, the IMO Assembly agreed to a proposal co-sponsored by FAO to include fishing vessels of 100 gross tonnage and above in the Scheme through IMO Resolution A.1078 (28). Consequently, the preconditions of using the IMO Number as the UVI for Phase 1 of the Global Record have now been met.

COFI 31 in 2014 appreciated the collaboration with IMO in extending its Ship Identification Number Scheme to fishing vessels and agreed that the IMO Number should be used as the Global Record’s UVI for Phase 1.

Table 1 below lists the core information likely to be required for the issue of the IMO Number.

Table 1

Data Requirements for the Issue of an IHS-F Vessel Number
  • Registered Owner
  • Flag State
  • Name of Fishing Vessel
  • Registration Number (Fishing No.)
  • Previous Vessel Names
  • Port of Registry
  • Address of Owner or Owners
  • Previous Flag or Flags (if any)
  • International Radio Call Sign
  • Where and When Built
  • Type of Vessel
  • Length
  • Moulded Depth
  • Beam
  • Gross Register Tonnage
  • GT
  • Power of Main Engine or Engines
  • Ship Builder
  • Nationality of Shipbuilder
  • Parallel Flag (if applicable)
  • Commercial Operator
    (if applicable: Charterer)
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