Lloyd's Register Of Shipping

Michael Palmer
Claremont, California

Lloyd's Register of [British and Foreign] Shipping is a British publication that describes, classifies and registers vessels according to certain criteria of physical structure and equipment, to enable underwriters, shipbrokers, and shipowners more easily to assess commercial risk and to negotiate marine insurance rates.

The name "Lloyd" derives from Edward Lloyd, the "coffee man", as he called himself, who operated a coffee house in London, originally in Tower Street, then, from just after Christmas 1691, in Lombard Street, near the General Post Office. Lloyd's coffee house served as a meeting place for merchants wishing to exchange news, as well as for merchants and underwriters wishing to negotiate insurance on vessels and cargo.


The earliest surviving volume of Lloyd's Register dates from 1764, updated in manuscript to 1766; other surviving volumes date from 1768 (letters M-Z only, updated in manuscript to 1771), 1775-1784, 1786-87, 1789 1802, 1803, 1804-1806, 1807, 1808-1816, and 1818 to date. Between 1800 and 1833, a dispute between underwriters and shipowners resulted in the publication of two separate registers, the "Green Book" by a society of the former, the "Red Book" by a society of the latter; for 1803 and 1806, only the Green Book survives. The coverage of these registers is similar but not identical, some vessels being included in one but not the other. In 1834, a new society independent of both underwriters and shipowners, Lloyd's Register of British and Foreign Shipping, was formed, to supervise surveys of vessels [1] and to publish Lloyd's Register of Shipping. This society, despite the similarity of names, is, and always has been, completely separate from, and independent of, the underwriters of Lloyd's (the Corporation of Lloyd's, familiarly known as "Lloyd's of London"), which was first incorporated in 1871.

Lloyd's Register has been published annually since at least 1775; since 1834, it has been published in the middle of the year, covering the following period 1 July through 30 June. D. T. Barriskill's indispensable A Guide to the Lloyd's Marine Collection and Related Marine Sources at Guildhall Library, Guildhall Library Research Guide 7 (2nd ed.; London: Guildhall Library, 1994), pp. 4-7, gives a detailed description of the Register, including (p. 5), the following table of main categories of information published, together with the dates between which each appeared:

Name of vessel 1764-date
Previous names (if any) 1764-date Between 1786 and 1871 as part of the Government's provisions to combat smuggling, British vessels were forbidden by statute from changing names; however this provision did not prevent the owner of a vessel from making a "colourable" sale to foreigners "off the register" in order to return the vessel to the statutory register under a different name.
Official number 1872/73-date
Signal code 1874/75-date
Rig/description 1768-date
1764-date 1874/75-date
Dimensions load-draught
Description of engines 1874/75-date
Date of building 1764-date Green Book 1800-1833 gives age
Place of building 1764-date
Name of builder 1860-date
Name of owner 1764-date
Name of Master
Dates of service with owner/on vessel
1764-1920/21 (to 1947 in Register of Sailing Vessels) 1887-1920/21
Number of crew 1764-1771
Port of registry 1834-date
Port of survey 1764-date
Class 1764-date
"Postings" of casualties 1775-1966/67
Destined voyage 1764-1873/74

Researchers consulting Lloyd's Register should bear in mind that although the information in Lloyd's Register was considered current at the time of publication, before the introduction of telegraphic communication this information, in particular with regard to the identities of the master (whose name was not infrequently garbled) and owner, was often out of date, occasionally by several years. In addition, vessels lost or "sold foreign" might continue to appear in the Register for several years, until the society was formally notified of their fate or disposition.

More importantly, Lloyd's Register of Shipping is a voluntary classification society [2], and until 1875 its published volumes list only those vessels it had surveyed and classed [3]. As a result, many smaller vessels and many early steamships do not appear in the published volumes of Lloyd's Register [4]. Since 1875, Lloyd's Register has included all British vessels of 100 tons and over, whether or not surveyed and classed by Lloyd's. Until 1890 Lloyd's Register was almost exclusively confined to British registered vessels although it included some foreign vessels that traded regularly with Great Britain [5]; since 1890 it has listed all British and foreign sea-going merchant vessels of 100 tons and over.

Copies of Lloyd's Register are held by a number of institutions, including both Lloyd's Register of Shipping and the Corporation of Lloyd's. In 1969, Gregg International Publishers Ltd, of Farnborough, England, reprinted the surviving volumes of Lloyd's Register for 1764-1881 (for 1800-1833, only the Green Book), and microfilm copies of the registers for 1776-1880 are also currently available. Copies of these reprint volumes and microfilms are held by most major university and maritime research libraries throughout the world, many of which, however, consider them of such importance that they do not permit Interlibrary Loan. Lloyd's Register of Shipping Lloyd's Marine Collection >> itself maintains a (woefully incomplete) list of major libraries with holdings of Lloyd's Register. For researchers unable to access copies of Lloyd's Register in person, Lloyds Register of Shipping does provide a research service, although at rates geared to the business community. The Maritime History Archive at the Memorial University of Newfoundland offers a similar research service at considerably lower rates Schedule Of Fees >>.


  • 1. Lloyd's Register of Shipping vessel survey reports for c.1833-c.1964 are now held by the National Maritime Museum, Romney Road, Greenwich, London, SE10 9NF. Reports >>
  • 2. Similar voluntary classification societies include the Bureau Veritas, now in Paris, which has published a Registre Maritime since 1829; the American Shipmasters' Association (since 1898: American Bureau of Shipping), originally in New York but now based in Houston, founded in 1862, which has published an annual register since 1867; the New York Marine Register, first published in 1857, renamed in 1860 [Original] American Lloyd's Register, which merged with the American Shipmasters' Association in 1884; Det Norske Veritas, founded in 1864; and Germanischer Lloyd, founded in 1867. For additional information on these classification societies and their published registers, see E. K. Haviland, "Classification Society Registers from the Point of View of a Marine Historian," American Neptune, 30 (1970), 9-39.
  • 3. The statutory list of British-registered merchant vessels was the Mercantile Navy List, first published in 1850 (corrected to December 1849) and superseded in 1978 by the Department of Trade's Official List of Registered Ships.
  • 4. Returns of all registered steam vessels in the United Kingdom between January 1851 and January 1870 have been published in Parliamentary Papers, House of Commons, 1851-1870.
  • 5. These vessels include virtually the entire fleet of Norddeutscher Lloyd, which upon its foundation in 1858 had taken "Lloyd" as part of its title to indicate that all its vessels were built to the standards of Lloyd's Register of Shipping.

Composed 09.06.1999; revised 05.05.00mp
links updated text reformatted 25/06/2011 Mick O Rourke