The annually published Register of Ships reflects the historic activities surrounding the inspection, classification and maintenance of merchant vessels as undertaken by appointed exclusive and non-exclusive surveyors. Reports of survey and plans/technical drawings informed the details of each vessel's entry in the Register. Details recorded within the Register of Ships include details including, but not limited to, a ship's name, place of build, date of build, ship builder, ship type, rig, classification, owner, master/captain, voyage information, dimensions, machinery details, call signs/signal letters, and official numbers.
The Register, published for the years 1764-66, 1768-71 and then annually since 1775, records the details of merchant vessels of the world. Since the 1870's Lloyd's Register has tried to include all merchant vessels over 100 gross tonnes, which are self-propelled and seagoing, regardless of classification. Before this time only those vessels classed by Lloyd's Register were listed. Vessels are listed alphabetically by their current name, and each copy includes a key explaining all symbols and abbreviations/terminology used within. With contemporaneous improvements to shipping technology and engineering, the data recorded within the Register of Ships has changed over time.
As well as the Register of Ships the Universal Register, published from 1886-1889, included additional details, e.g. statistics, alphabetical lists of shipowners, telegraphic business addresses, details of war/naval vessels, and particulars of dry and wet docks. From 1890, much of this additional data passed into the Appendix to the Register of Ships.
Since the earliest Register of Ships , supplements showing additions or amendments/alterations to existing entries were published within the Register. From 1890 onwards, the Register of Ships included a comprehensive volume of supplementary information. This Appendix was renamed the Maritime Guide in 1984, and ceased publication in 2002.
First published in 1876, a List of Shipowners was bound within the Register of Ships , providing an alphabetical list of owners with details of their addresses and their fleets. Between 1890 and 1955 this can be found within the Appendix but has since existed as a separate publication in its own right.
First published in the Universal Register in 1886, the List of Shipbuilders and Existing ShipsBuilt by Them included only a list of British shipbuilders, but was expanded the following year to include those around the world. From 1890 to 1939, it appeared in the Appendix to the Register of Ships before publication was halted with the start of the Second World War. Publication resumed in 1947, but in 1984 it became a part of the Maritime Guide, which in turn ceased publication in 2002. As a resource it lists the shipbuilder's location, and the names and gross tonnages of extant ships built by them.
The Lloyd's Register of Ships is not an official record for the registration of shipping. A requirement of international maritime law, today national registration authorities are responsible. In the United Kingdom this is the Registry of Shipping and Seamen, in Cardiff.