A ship prefix is a combination of letters, usually abbreviations, used in front of the name of a civilian or naval ship.
Prefixes for civilian vessels may either identify the type of propulsion, such as "SS" for steamship, or purpose, such as "RV" for research vessel. Civilian prefixes are often used inconsistently, and frequently not at all. Sometimes a slash is used to separate the letters, as in "M/S".
Naval prefixes came into use as abbreviations for longer titles, such as "His/Her Majesty's Ship" in the Royal Navy, abbreviated "H.M.S." and then "HMS". Earlier uses often included the type of vessel, as for instance "U.S.F." ("United States Frigate") for frigates of the United States Navy. Today the common practice is to use a single prefix for all warships of a nation's navy, and other prefixes for auxiliaries and ships of allied services, such as coast guards.
The use of ship prefixes is not universal; in particular neither the Third Reich's Kriegsmarine nor the Imperial Japanese Navy used ship prefixes. Some English-language writers use prefixes like "DKM" (for "Deutsche Kriegsmarine") and "HIJMS" (for "His Imperial Japanese Majesty's Ship") or "IJN" (for "Imperial Japanese Navy", a translation of 大日本帝国海軍 dai-nippon teikoku kaigun) for consistency with "HMS" and "USS". Other writers follow the practice of the navy and omit any prefix.
From the 20th century onwards, most navies identify ships by hull numbers — identification codes typically painted on the side of the ship. Each navy has its own system: the United States Navy uses hull classification symbols, and the Royal Navy and other navies of Europe and the Commonwealth use pennant numbers.
These tables list both current and historical prefixes known to have been used.
Prefix Meaning AHT Anchor Handling Tug AHTS Anchor Handling Tug Supply vessel CRV Coastal Research Vessel C/F Car Ferry CS Cable Ship DB Derrick Barge DEPV Diesel Electric Paddle Vessel DLB Derrick Lay Barge DCV Deepwater Construction Vessel DSV Diving Support Vessel/ Deep Submergence Vehicle DV Dead vessel ERRV Emergency Response Rescue Vessel FPSO Floating Production, Storage and Offloading Vessel FPV Free Piston Vessel FPV Fishery Patrol Vessel FV Fishing Vessel GTS Gas Turbine Ship HLV Heavy lift vessel HSC High Speed Craft HSF High Speed Ferry HTV Heavy Transport Vessel LB Liftboat LNG/C Liquefied natural gas carrier LPG/C Liquefied petroleum gas carrier MF Motor Ferry MS (M/S) Motor Ship (interchangeable with MV) MSV Multipurpose support/supply vessel MSY Motor Sailing Yacht MT Motor Tanker MV (M/V) Motor Vessel (interchangeable with MS) MY Motor Yacht nb Narrowboat NRV NATO Research Vessel NS Nuclear Ship OSV Offshore Support Vessel PS Paddle Steamer PSV Platform Supply Vessel RV Research Vessel RMS Royal Mail Ship or Royal Mail Steamer SB Sailing Barge SS (S/S) Steamship (with screw propellers, can be either coal- or oil-fired) SSCV Semi-Submersible Crane Vessel SSV Sailing School Vessel, Submarine and Special Warfare Support Vessel ST Steam Tug STS Sail Training Ship STV Sail Training Vessel or Steam Turbine Vessel SV Sailing Vessel SY Sailing Yacht or Steam Yacht TEV Turbine Electric Vessel TIV Turbine Installation Vessel TS Training Ship TSS Turbine Steam Ship or Twin Screw Steamer TV Training vessel
National or military prefixes
Country Service Prefix Meaning Argentina Argentine Navy ARA Navy of the Argentine Republic (Spanish: Armada de la Republica Argentina) Argentinian Coast Guard GC Argentinian Coast Guard Ship (Spanish: Guardacostas) Australia Royal Australian Navy HMAS His/Her Majesty's Australian Ship Australia (Victoria) Royal Navy HMVS His/Her Majesty's Victorian Ship (obsolete) Austria-Hungary Austro-Hungarian Navy SMS Seiner Majestät Schiff (English: His Majesty's Ship) Bahamas Royal Bahamas Defence Force HMBS His/Her Majesty's Bahamian Ship Bangladesh Bangladesh Navy BNS Bangladesh Naval Ship Barbados Barbados Defence Force HMBS His/Her Majesty's Barbadian Ship Belgium Belgian Navy BNS Belgium Naval Ship (NATO prefix) Brunei Royal Brunei Navy KDB Kapal Di-Raja Brunei — Royal Brunei Ship Burma Burmese Navy UBS Bamar Sit Yay Yin — Union of Burma Ship Canada Royal Canadian Navy HMCS/NCSM His/Her Majesty's Canadian Ship/Navire Canadien de Sa Majesté (French) CFAV/NAFC Canadian Forces Auxiliary Vessel/Navire auxiliaire des Forces canadiennes (French) Canadian Coast Guard CCGS/NGCC Canadian Coast Guard Ship/Navire de Garde côtière canadienne (French) CCGC/CGCC Canadian Coast Guard Cutter/Cotre de Garde côtière canadienne (French) Department of Fisheries and Oceans CGS Canadian Government Ship (no longer used) DGS Dominion Government Ship (no longer used) Royal Canadian Sea Cadets/Cadets de la Marine royale du Canada SCTS/NECM Sea Cadet Training Ship/Navire école des cadets de la Marine (French) Colombia Armada Nacional ARC Armada de la Republica de Colombia Confederate States of America Confederate States Navy CSS Confederate States Ship (obsolete) Cook Islands Cook Islands Police CIPPB Cook Islands Police Patrol Boat Denmark Royal Danish Navy HDMS (Danish: KDM) His/Her Danish Majesty's Ship (Danish: Kongelige Danske Marine) Ecuador Armada Ecuatoriana BAE Buque de la Armada de Ecuador Estonia Estonian Navy ENS (Estonian: EML) Estonian Naval Ship (NATO designation) Estonian Coast Guard ECGS Estonian Coast Guard Ship (NATO designation) Fiji Republic of Fiji Navy RFNS Republic of Fiji Naval Ship Finland Finnish Navy FNS Finnish Navy Ship. Prefixes are not used in Finnish-language communications. France French Navy FS French Ship (NATO designation); France does not use prefixes internally German Empire Kaiserliche Marine SM U## Seiner Majestät Unterseeboot (English: His Majesty's Submarine) SMS Seiner Majestät Schiff (English: His Majesty's Ship) Nazi Germany Kriegsmarine — (no prefix; some authors use "DKM" for "Deutsche Kriegsmarine" and "KMS" for "Kriegsmarine Schiffe") West Germany Bundesmarine FGS Federal German Ship (NATO designation); West Germany did not use prefixes internally Germany (reunited) Deutsche Marine FGS Federal German Ship (NATO designation); Germany does not use prefixes internally Kingdom of Greece Royal Hellenic Navy ΒΠ (VP) Βασιλικόν Πλοίον (Vassilikón Ploíon), "Royal Ship"; RHS (Royal Hellenic Ship) or HHMS (His Hellenic Majesty's Ship) in use by English-language authors and contemporary foreign navies. Greece Hellenic Navy HS Hellenic Ship: NATO designation, used in international communications; internally the Hellenic Navy uses prefixes indicating ship type. Guyana Guyanese Coast Guard GDFS Guyanese Defence Forces Ship Kingdom of Hawaii Hawaiian Navy HHMS His Hawaiian Majesty's Ships; the only one being the Kaimiloa Iceland Icelandic Coast Guard ICGV (Icelandic: VS) Icelandic Coast Guard Vessel, (Icelandic:Varðskip) India Indian Navy (pre-Republic) HMIS His/Her Majesty's Indian Ship India Indian Coast Guard ICGS Indian Coast Guard Ship Indian Navy INS Indian Naval Ship Indonesia Indonesian Navy KRI Kapal Republik Indonesia (Republic of Indonesia Ship) Ireland Irish Naval Service LÉ Long Éireannach — Irish ship Israel Israeli Sea Corps INS Israeli Naval Ship (Internally Hebrew acronym אח"י (A.Ch.Y.) is used standing for אניית חיל הים (Oniyat Heyl HaYam - Sea Corps Ship) Kingdom of Italy
Regia Marina RN Regia Nave – Royal Ship Regia Marina R.Smg. Regio Sommergibile – Royal Submarine Italy Marina Militare ITS Italian Ship (NATO designation); Italy no longer uses prefixes Jamaica Jamaica Defence Force HMJS His/Her Majesty's Jamaican Ship Empire of Japan Imperial Japanese Navy — (no prefix; some authors use "HIJMS" for "His Imperial Japanese Majesty's Ship" and "IJN" for "Imperial Japanese Navy") Japan Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force JDS or JS Japanese Defense Ship or Japanese Ship Kenya Kenyan Navy KNS Kenyan Naval Ship Kiribati Kiribati Police Force RKS Republic of Kiribati Ship South Korea Republic of Korea Navy ROKS Republic of Korea Ship Latvia Latvian Navy LVNS Latvian Naval Ship (NATO designation) Lithuania Lithuanian Navy LKL
Lietuvos Karinis Laivas – Lithuanian Military Ship
Lithuanian Ship (NATO designation)
Malaysia Royal Malaysian Navy KD Kapal Di-Raja — His Majesty's Ship, literal: Royal Ship Marshall Islands Marshall Islands Police RMIS Republic of the Marshall Islands Ship Federated States of Micronesia FSM National Police FSS Federated States Ship Mexico Armada de México ARM Armada de la República Mexicana Myanmar Tatmadaw Yay UMS Myanma Sit Yay Yin — Union of Myanmar Ship Netherlands Royal Netherlands Navy Hr.Ms./Zr.Ms. (English: HNLMS) Harer/Zijner Majesteits (English: His/Her Netherlands Majesty's Ship) New Zealand Royal New Zealand Navy HMNZS His/Her Majesty's New Zealand Ship Nigeria Nigerian Navy NNS Nigerian Naval Ship Norway Royal Norwegian Navy HNoMS (Norwegian: KNM) His Norwegian Majesty's Ship (Norwegian: Kongelige Norske Marine) Norwegian Coast Guard NoCGV (Norwegian: KV) Norwegian Coast Guard Vessel (Norwegian: Kystvakten) Oman Royal Navy of Oman SNV Sultanate Naval Vessel Pakistan Pakistan Navy PNS Pakistani Naval Ship Palau Palau Police PSS Palau State Ship Papua New Guinea Papua New Guinea Defence Force HMPNGDFS His/Her Majesty's Papua New Guinea Defence Force Ship Peru Peruvian Navy BAP Peruvian Navy Ship (Spanish: Buque Armada Peruana) BIC Scientific Research Ship (Spanish: Buque de Investigación Científica) Philippines Philippine Navy BRP Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas; in use since 1 July 1980
(Ship of the Republic of the Philippines)
RPS Republic of the Philippines Ship (Obsolete); before 1 July 1980 Poland Polish Navy ORP Ship of the Republic of Poland
(Polish: Okręt Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej)
Portugal Marinha Portuguesa NRP Navio da República Portuguesa - Portuguese Republic Ship PNS Portuguese Navy Ship (NATO designation, not used internally) UAM Unidade Auxiliar da Marinha - Navy Auxiliary Unit (used by the Portuguese Navy non-military ships) Romania Romanian Navy NMS Nava Majestatii Sale (His/Her majesty's Ship) - used before 1945 by the Royal Romanian Navy SMR Serviciul Maritim Roman (The Romanian Sea Service) - used by transport ships ROS Romanian Ship (NATO designation, not used internally) Russia Russian Navy RFS Russian Federation Ship; Russia does not use prefixes internally Saudi Arabia Saudi Navy HMS His Majesty's Ship — the same as the Royal Navy Singapore Republic of Singapore Navy RSS Republic of Singapore Ship Solomon Islands Royal Solomon Islands Police RSIPV Royal Solomon Islands Police Vessel South Africa South African Navy SAS South African Ship (previously HMSAS - His/Her Majesty's South African Ship) SATS South African Training Ship Spain Armada Española SPS Spanish Naval Ship (Spain does not use prefixes internally) Sri Lanka Sri Lankan Navy SLNS Sri Lanka Naval Ship Sweden Swedish Navy HMS Hans/Hennes Majestäts Skepp — the same as the Royal Navy but in Swedish Republic of China Republic of China Navy ROCS (older usage: CNS) Republic of China Ship (older usage: Chinese Navy Ship) Thailand Royal Thai Navy HTMS His Thai Majesty's Ship Tonga Tonga Defence Services VOEA Vaka O Ene Afio (His Majesty’s Vessel) Turkey Turkish Navy TCG Ship of the Turkish Republic (Turkish: Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Gemisi.) Tuvalu Tuvalu Police Force HMTSS His/Her Majesty's Tuvaluan State Ship Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force TTS Trinidad and Tobago Ship United Kingdom Ships carrying mail RMS Royal Mail Steamer/Ship Fishery protection vessels FPV Fisheries Protection Vessel Royal Air Force HMAFV His/Her Majesty's Air Force Vessel (not currently in use) Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships RFA Royal Fleet Auxiliary Royal Maritime Auxiliary
RMAS Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service (now obsolete) Serco Denholm ships SD Vessels previously operated under RMAS prefix that are now operated under contract by Serco Denholm Royal Navy HM Sloop His/Her Majesty's Sloop (now obsolete) HMS His/Her Majesty's Ship/Submarine HMSm His/Her Majesty's Submarine HMT Hired Military Transport (not currently in use) HMAV His/Her Majesty's Armed Vessel (not contemporaneously used) HMY His/Her Majesty's Yacht (not currently in use) HMMGB His/Her Majesty's Motor Gun Boat (not currently in use) HMM His/Her Majesty's Monitor (not currently in use) HMSML His/Her Majesty's Small Motor Launch HBMS His/Her Britannic Majesty's Ship (archaic) HM His/Her Majesty's, then used with the type of ship in military use (e.g. "HM Trawler") Hospital ships HMHS His/Her Majesty's Hospital Ship Joint Services HMSTC His/Her Majesty's Sail Training Craft Trinity House THV Trinity House Vessel (Lighthouse and Buoy Tender) Northern Lighthouse Board NLV Northern Lighthouse Vessel (Lighthouse tender) British Army HMAV Her Majesty's Army Vessel RCLV Royal Corps of Logistics Vessel (not currently in use) Government research ships RRS Royal Research Ship HM Revenue and Customs HMCC, HMC His/Her Majesty's Customs Cutter shortened to His/Her Majesty's Cutter after being transferred to the UK Border Agency HM Customs and Excise (replaced by HMRC, above) HMRC His/Her Majesty's Revenue Cutter (not used since 18 April 2005) United States U.S. Air Force USAF, USAFS United States Air Force ship (not currently in use) U.S. Army USAS United States Army Ship USAV United States Army Vessel USAT United States Army Transport (not currently in use) USAHS United States Army Hospital Ship (not currently in use) U.S. Navy USF United States Frigate (obsolete) USFS United States Flagship (obsolete) USS United States Ship U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command USNS United States Naval Ship (USN owned, civilian crews) USNV United States Naval Vessel (foreign-built, USN-leased, USN crews) United States Coast Guard USCGC United States Coast Guard Cutter USCGD United States Coast Guard Destroyer (not currently in use) United States Lighthouse Service USLHT United States Lighthouse Tender (obsolete) United States Revenue Cutter Service USRC United States Revenue Cutter (obsolete) National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration NOAAS NOAA Research Vessel Uruguay Uruguayan Navy ROU Republica Oriental del Uruguay Vanuatu Vanuatu Police Force RVS Republic of Vanuatu Ship Venezuela Venezuelan Navy FNV Fuerzas Navales de Venezuela Not in use since 1949 ARV Armada Republica de Venezuela Not in use 1999 ARBV Armada Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela
Notes and references
The designations for United Kingdom ships applied at the time of the British Empire, before the establishment of separate navies for the Dominions.
In the Royal Netherlands Navy, "HNLMS" is the prefix in English, a translation of the Dutch original "Hr.Ms." or "Zr.Ms.". "Hr.Ms." should preferably not be used in English-language documents; nevertheless it is often seen on the World Wide Web. Until the moment a Dutch naval ship officially enters active service in the fleet, the ship's name is used without the prefix.
In Australia, the prefix NUSHIP is used to denote ships that have yet to be commissioned into the fleet.
In the United States Navy, all prefixes other than "USS," "USNS", "USNV", and "USRC" were made obsolete in 1901 when President Theodore Roosevelt signed into law a bill fixing American naval nomenclature. USRC was replaced by USCGC when the Revenue Cutter Service became the United States Coast Guard in 1915.
A United States ship that has not yet been commissioned in the Navy does not hold the title of USS, it holds the title of PCU (Pre-commissioned unit). For example, say a shipyard is building a new aircraft carrier, the Flattop. From the date the keel is laid to the date it is commissioned, it is called the PCU Flattop. Only after it enters active service in the fleet and is commissioned will it be referred to as USS Flattop.
By law, the U.S. Navy may not purchase foreign-built ships, but it may lease them as United States Naval Vessels.
When it is stricken from the fleet list, a ship typically has the prefix "ex-" added to its name, to distinguish it from any active ships bearing the same name. For example, after USS Constellation (CV-64) was retired in 2003, she became referred to as ex-Constellation.
Note that while calling a US ship "the USS Flattop" may make grammatical sense, the preliminary article "the" is discouraged by nearly all style guides, and the U.S. Navy. The U.S. Navy uses ship names without article, except for USS The Sullivans, named for the five Sullivan brothers, all lost at sea during World War II. Its British equivalent ("the HMS Flattop") is also discouraged, since "the Her Majesty's Ship" would be grammatically incorrect.
Civilian ships naming
In 1939, the British Ministry of Shipping adopted a standard naming system whereby all merchant ships ordered to be built in Britain to Government account, except very small ship types, would be given the prefix Empire to their name. This applied to ships acquired through purchase, requisition, or taken in prize, with some exceptions. It also applied to older ships acquired from the USA, modern ships acquired on Lease/Lend arrangements, salved and refitted ships, and captured enemy ships.
- ^ "December 2009". Colton Company. http://www.coltoncompany.com/newsandcomment/news/2009/12.htm. Retrieved 13 June 2010.
- ^ "Submarine and Special Warfare Support Vessel". Military Sealift Command. http://www.msc.navy.mil/inventory/print.asp?command=type&action=Submarine%20and%20Special%20Warfare%20Support%20Vessel. Retrieved 3 December 2010.
- ^ "About the Coast Guard". 4 September 2008. http://www.gdf-gy.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=44&Itemid=86. Retrieved 21 March 2010.
- ^ "List of Acronyms Preceding the Name of a Ship". 22 March 2010. http://www.pilotesbsl.qc.ca/en/ship/acronyms.php. Retrieved 22 March 2010.
- ^ Habesch, The Army's Navy, p. 154
- ^ a b Lt. Cdr. Phillip Pournelle, USN (9 September 2005). "And now another report from Lt. Cdr. Phillip Pournelle:". Jerrypournelle.com. http://www.jerrypournelle.com/archives2/archives2mail/mail378.html#Friday. Retrieved 27 September 2008.
- ^ Lasco, Dominique. "Navy Christens Guided-Missile Destroyer Michael Murphy". http://www.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=60229. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
- ^ "USN Ship Naming". Naval History & Heritage Command. 29 September 1997. http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq63-1.htm. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
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