What is MV, MT, SS, FV Ship Prefix Meaning?

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The same name can be used by different shipowners and sometimes it makes some confusion when two ships with the same names are sailing in the same waters or staying in the same port.

From the legal part, this problem has been solved a long time ago and all ships are registered and have their unique IMO number, call sign, and MMSI or Maritime Mobile Service Identity number.

Why Different Ship Prefixes Used?

Nowadays, anyone can find ship details and even ship particulars online and identify the purpose of the ship if needed. Back in the early days, it was common to use prefixes to ship names as abbreviations or full transcripts.

When the telegraph was the primary communication method, the length o the message was very important and could significantly save time and money. Imagine yourself as a Captain and you need to inform your owners that “Motor Vessel Anna has Estimated Time of Arrival to Port of Calais 25th October 1200 Local Time”. Looks pretty long, but could be easily shortened to “MV Anna ETA Calais 25 October 1200LT”.

Now communication is performed by e-mails, but abbreviations are in use not only because of maritime traditions, but also to simplify communication.

For merchant fleet seafarers, the practical side of the prefixes was to identify ship propulsion as it could have a direct influence on the rules applied at sea regulated by COLREG. For example, “MV” or motor vessel gives way to “SY” a sailing yacht, and “SV” a sailing vessel.

What Differs Between These Ships?

Modern ships are most commonly called motorized, but there are only three prefixes used, “MV” for motor vessels, “MT” for motor tankers, and “MS” for motor ships.

By learning other prefixes, you can easily notice the evolution of shipbuilding, marine engineering, and ship propulsion.

The most noticeable prefixes are such as “SS” for a screw steamship and “PS” for a paddle steamer. Both are powered by steam engines and use propellers or paddle wheelers accordingly. Nuclear power is also used as a source for propulsion and this type of ship start with the prefix “NS” or nuclear ship.

However, in real life, the list of prefixes of modern ships continues with prefixes reflecting the purpose of the vessel and extends with new types of ships.

A special place should be given to FV or fishing vessels. This type of ship has its own place in COLREG and may be involved in operations and must be given way.

The vast majority of prefixes are used by passenger ships, gas carriers, and offshore vessels. Here is a full list of prefixes used in the merchant fleet.

Ship PrefixShip Prefix MeaningShip type description and functions
AHTAnchor handling tugAHT (Anchor Handling Tug): a tugboat designed for handling anchors and mooring buoys in offshore oilfields and wind farms
AHTSAnchor handling tug supply vesselAHTS (Anchor Handling Tug Supply Vessel): a vessel that combines the functions of an anchor-handling tug and a supply vessel
CFCar ferryCF (Car Ferry): a vessel that carries vehicles and passengers across a body of water
CSCable ship or Cable layerCS (Cable Ship or Cable Layer): a vessel used for laying and repairing underwater cables
DBDerrick bargeDB (Derrick Barge): a barge equipped with a derrick, a type of boom used for hoisting and lowering heavy loads
DEPVDiesel Electric Paddle VesselDEPV (Diesel Electric Paddle Vessel): a vessel propelled by a combination of diesel engines and paddle wheels
DCVDeepwater Construction VesselDCV (Deepwater Construction Vessel): a vessel designed for performing construction tasks in deep waters, such as installing offshore platforms and laying pipelines
ERRVEmergency Response Rescue VesselERRV (Emergency Response Rescue Vessel): a vessel equipped with rescue and emergency response capabilities, such as medical facilities and firefighting equipment
EVExploration VesselEV (Exploration Vessel): a vessel used for exploring and studying the earth’s oceans, including their physical, chemical, and biological characteristics
RV / RSVResearch vessel/Research Survey VesselRV/RSV (Research Vessel/Research Survey Vessel): a vessel used for conducting scientific research, including oceanographic, biological, and geological studies
FTFactory Stern TrawlerFT (Factory Stern Trawler): a type of fishing vessel with a stern trawl and on-board processing facilities
FVFishing VesselFV (Fishing Vessel): a vessel used for catching fish and other marine organisms
HSCHigh-Speed CraftHSC (High-Speed Craft): a vessel designed for high speeds, typically using a planing hull or hydrofoils
HSFHigh-Speed FerryHSF (High-Speed Ferry): a ferry that uses high-speed craft technology
FPSOFloating production storage and offloading vesselFPSO (Floating Production Storage and Offloading Vessel): a vessel used for storing and offloading crude oil, natural gas, or other hydrocarbons from offshore oil and gas fields
LNG/CLiquefied natural gas carrierLNG/C (Liquefied Natural Gas Carrier): a vessel used for transporting liquefied natural gas (LNG)
LPG/CLiquefied petroleum gas carrierLPG/C (Liquefied Petroleum Gas Carrier): a vessel used for transporting liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)
HLVHeavy lift vesselHLV (Heavy Lift Vessel): a vessel specifically designed for transporting and installing heavy loads, such as offshore platforms and wind turbines
MFMotor ferryMF (Motor Ferry): a ferry powered by engines
MSVMultipurpose support/supply vesselMSV (Multipurpose Support/Supply Vessel): a vessel designed for a variety of tasks, including supply and support for offshore oil and gas operations
MSYMotor Sailing YachtMSY (Motor Sailing Yacht): a yacht that is powered by both a motor and sails
MTMotor TankerMT (Motor Tanker): a tanker propelled by engines
MTSMarine towage and salvage/tugboatMTS (Marine Towage and Salvage/Tugboat): a vessel used for towing ships, barges, and other vessels, as well as for performing marine salvage operations
MVMotor VesselMV (Motor Vessel): a vessel propelled by an engine
MYMotor YachtMY (Motor Yacht): a yacht powered by an engine
MSMotor ShipMS (Motor Ship): a ship powered by an engine
LBLiftboat (Read what are Liftboats here)LB (Liftboat): a self-elevating platform used for a variety of tasks, including offshore drilling, construction, and maintenance
RVResearch VesselRV (Research Vessel): a vessel used for conducting scientific research, including oceanographic, biological, and geological studies
IRVInternational Research VesselIRV (International Research Vessel): a research vessel operated by an international organization or consortium
HTVHeavy transport vesselHTV (Heavy Transport Vessel): a vessel specifically designed for transporting heavy loads, such as offshore platforms and wind turbines
NSNuclear shipNS (Nuclear Ship): a ship powered by a nuclear reactor
OSVOffshore supply vesselOSV (Offshore Supply Vessel): a vessel used for transporting supplies and personnel to offshore oil and gas platforms
PSPaddle steamerPS (Paddle Steamer): a vessel propelled by paddle wheels
PSVPlatform supply vesselPSV (Platform Supply Vessel): a vessel used for transporting supplies and personnel to offshore platforms
SBSailing BargeSB (Sailing Barge): a type of barge propelled by sails
SSScrew SteamshipSS (Screw Steamship): a steamship propelled by a screw propeller
SSCVSemi-submersible crane vesselSSCV (Semi-Submersible Crane Vessel): a vessel with a semi-submersible hull and a crane used for installing and servicing offshore platforms and other structures
TBTug boatTB (Tug Boat): a small, powerful vessel used for towing or pushing other vessels
SVSailing VesselSV (Sailing Vessel): a vessel propelled by sails
SYSailing YachtSY (Sailing Yacht): a yacht propelled by sails
TSTraining ShipTS (Training Ship): a vessel used for training sailors and cadets
STSSail training shipSTS (Sail Training Ship): a training ship propelled by sails
ULCCUltra Large Crude CarrierULCC (Ultra Large Crude Carrier): a very large tanker used for transporting crude oil
VLCCVery Large Crude CarrierVLCC (Very Large Crude Carrier): a large tanker used for transporting crude oil
TVTraining vesselTV (Training Vessel): a vessel used for training sailors and cadets
ULBCUltra Large Bulk CarrierULBC (Ultra Large Bulk Carrier): a very large cargo ship used for transporting bulk cargoes, such as coal, iron ore, and grain
ULCVUltra Large Container VesselULCV (Ultra Large Container Vessel): a very large cargo ship used for transporting containers
TSHDTrailing Suction Hopper DredgerTSHD (Trailing Suction Hopper Dredger): a vessel used for dredging and removing sediments from the bottom of bodies of water
YDYard derrickYD (Yard Derrick): a type of derrick used for hoisting and lowering loads in a shipyard
YTYard TugYT (Yard Tug): a tugboat used in a shipyard for moving vessels and other objects.

FAQs about Ship’s Prefixes

Can two ships have the same name, and if so, how is this confusion managed?

Yes, two ships can have the same name. Confusion is managed by unique identifiers like the IMO number, call sign, and MMSI.

What is the importance of ship prefixes and how are they used in modern shipping?

Ship prefixes identify a ship’s propulsion method and purpose. They’re used for efficient communication and preserving maritime traditions.

How does the ship prefix system identify different types of propulsion systems and vessel purposes?

The ship prefix system denotes the propulsion type and purpose of a ship. For instance, “MV” denotes a motor vessel, “FV” a fishing vessel.

Why are ship prefixes still in use even though we have advanced communication methods?

Ship prefixes provide a concise way of indicating a ship’s propulsion type and purpose, respect maritime traditions, and guide seafarers with COLREG rules.

Can you provide examples of some ship prefixes and their meanings in the modern merchant fleet?

Examples: “MV” is Motor Vessel, “MT” is Motor Tanker, “MS” is Motor Ship, “FV” is Fishing Vessel, “NS” is Nuclear Ship, “AHT” is Anchor Handling Tug. For more examples, refer to the extensive list in the original article.

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