What does it take to build a reliable ship? On the occasion of the 150th birthday of Lloyd’s Register in the Netherlands you may take a look into the world of ship surveying. How many lifeboats are mandatory? And what exactly do crayfish have to do with this?

You probably don't stop to think about it, but you, too, benefit from safety at sea. Whether you order packages from abroad via Internet or hop on the ferry to Terschelling: every ship you encounter was once surveyed. These are intensive inspections, performed by such classification agencies as Lloyd’s Register. After all, it would be horrible to have a tanker leak oil, or to have a ferryboat covered in toxic paint, or to have a ship explode in the Rotterdam Harbour.

From drawing table to sea trials

Before a ship is launched, it must earn a certification showing that it is seaworthy and safe. Awarding such certifications is the task of classification agencies. To do this, they send out a "surveyor" (inspector). In "Waterproof", you follow a surveyor who first peers at a ship's construction blueprints, then goes to the shipyard or to the factory where the steel plates for the ship are made. Surveyors are involved with the entire construction process, including the sea trials. And the ship gets certified only once everything has proven to work as it should.

Gossiping in a coffee house

Lloyd’s Register originated in a café in London that was very popular around 1700 among maritime traders, insurers and shipping companies. At that time, it was difficult to determine the quality of shipping because no rules had yet been drawn up. Rumours about maritime shortcomings were discussed in detail at the tables of Edward Lloyd’s coffee house. It gave the owner the idea of bundling all that knowledge together. He started a news sheet and built a lectern from which those present could share the latest shipping news with each other. This led to Lloyd's Register being set up in 1760, the first classification agency.

Non-indigenous crayfish

Several exciting shipping developments are central to this exhibit, innovations that have drastically changed regulations. Classification agencies pay close attention to maritime innovations and also contribute to these. Under their supervision, tankers became double-hulled, lifeboats became mandatory and dead-end hallways on board have been outlawed.

The environment has also become increasingly important in recent decades. Consider the regulation of ballast water, for example – this ensures that a ship remains stable under varying cargo loads. In the past, exotic animals such as crayfish were often relocated to the Netherlands in this water. Now, ballast water must be purified far away from the coast and this is no longer possible. Just one of the many examples of protocols being adapted so that safety remains paramount.

The exhibition has been made possible by a financial contribution from the Lloyd’s Register Foundation.