Global Ship Number System
GSN Home » The Global Ship Numbering System » Global Ship Numbering Allocation

The concept of a Global Ship Number was developed at Ships Database Workshops at Newcastle University in 1998 and 2000. A pilot GSN scheme was devised by an international working party, which included sample data from a number of existing databases. The pilot scheme included several thousand records; each renaming (or change of identity or conversion) might have a new record. Software to import, convert and check ship data from a number of sources has been developed. Database creators may find the GSNs of the ships of use to them, and add a corresponding field on their own database, while general inquirers may find basic information on named ships.

If database creators add this number to each ship record in their own databases, e.g. of shipwrecks, users may then search such databases for more detailed information on a particular vessel by inputting its GSN. Ultimately, different databases may be linked through the use of the common GSN, i.e. to go from a shipbuilding to a shipwreck database to find details of a vessels loss. The GSN system is thus a telephone directory look-up facility showing what number has been allocated to each vessel, and its main characteristics such as tonnage and year of build.

The GSN system is not intended to operate as a database in its own right with complex data fields, but to show enough information to indicate whether the right ship of that name has been found, e.g. from year and place of build and type. Each GSN entry is generally derived by exporting about a dozen relevant fields for a particular ship from an existing database, and adding one or two leading digits to the last six or seven digits of its record number. These also indicate the source of the data used to populate the GSN Index, e.g. a leading digit 2 indicates from the British Shipbuilding Database, a subset of which is searchable on this site.

For more information, take a look at British Shipbuilding Database.

As most existing ship databases have 7 or fewer digits, it is proposed that the 8 digit blocks be allocated according to the Global Ship Numbering Allocation.

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