Ship prefix

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bow of the container ship MSC Susanna
This ship's prefix "MSC" indicates the owner, Mediterranean Shipping Company.

A ship prefix is a combination of letters, usually abbreviations, used in front of the name of a civilian or naval ship that has historically served numerous purposes, such as identifying the vessel's mode of propulsion, purpose, or ownership/nationality. In the modern environment, prefixes are cited inconsistently in civilian service, whereas in government service a vessel's prefix is seldom omitted due to government regulations dictating that a certain prefix be used. 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. For example, the modern navy of Japan adopts the prefix "JS" – Japanese Ship. However, not all navies use prefixes. Among the blue-water navies,[1] those of France, Brazil, China, Russia, Germany, and Spain do not use ship prefixes. NATO designations such as FS (French Ship), FGS (Federal German Ship), and SPS (Spanish Ship) can be used if needed.[citation needed]


Historically, prefixes for civilian vessels often identified the vessel's mode of propulsion, such as "MV" (motor vessel), "SS" (screw steamer;[2] often cited as "steam ship"), or "PS" (paddle steamer).[3][2]

These days, general civilian prefixes are used inconsistently, and frequently not at all. In terms of abbreviations that may reflect a vessel's purpose or function, technology has introduced a broad variety of differently named vessels onto the world's oceans, such as "LPGC" (liquified petroleum gas carrier), or "TB" (tug-boat), or "DB" (derrick barge). In many cases though, these abbreviations are used for purely formal, legal identification and are not used colloquially or in the daily working environment. Prefixes indicating a vessel's purpose (e.g., "RMS" (Royal Mail ship) or "RV" (research vessel)) are also used.[citation needed]

Prefixes used for naval ships primarily reflect ownership, but may also indicate a vessel's type or purpose as a sub-set. Historically, the most significant navy was Britain's Royal Navy, which has usually used the prefix "HMS", standing for "His/Her Majesty's Ship". The Royal Navy also adopted nomenclature that reflected a vessel's type or purpose, e.g. HM Sloop. Commonwealth navies adopted a variation, with, for example, HMAS, HMCS, and HMNZS pertaining to Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, respectively.

In the early days of the United States Navy, abbreviations often included the type of vessel, for instance "USF" (United States Frigate), but this method was abandoned by President Theodore Roosevelt's Executive Order No. 549 of 1907, which made "United States Ship" (USS) the standard signifier for USN ships on active commissioned service.[4][5] United States Navy prefixes officially only apply while a ship is in active commission, with only the name used before or after a period of commission and for all vessels "in service" rather than commissioned status.[5][6]

However, not all navies used prefixes; this includes the significant navies of China, France and Russia.[citation needed]

From the 20th century onwards, most navies identify ships by letters or hull numbers (pennant numbers)[7] or a combination of such. These identification codes were, and still are, 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 (e.g. 'D35' is destroyer 35 – HMS Dragon) and other navies of Europe and the Commonwealth use pennant numbers.[citation needed]

These tables list both current and historical prefixes known to have been used.[8]

Generic (merchant navy) prefixes[edit]

These prefixes are generally used for merchant vessels of any nationality.[9]

  Prefix   Meaning
AE Ammunition ship
AFS Combat stores ship
AHT Anchor handling tug
AHTS Anchor handling tug supply vessel[10]
AO United States Navy oiler
AOG Gasoline tanker
AOR Auxiliary replenishment oiler
AOT Transport oiler[citation needed]
ASDS Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship
ATB Articulated Tug Barge[citation needed]
CRV Coastal Research Vessel[citation needed]
C/F Car ferry
CS Container ship[10] or
Cable ship
DB Derrick barge
DEPV Diesel Electric Paddle Vessel[citation needed]
DLB Derrick Lay Barge[citation needed]
DCV Deepwater Construction Vessel[citation needed]
DSV Diving support vessel or
deep-submergence vehicle
DV Dead vessel[11][12]
ERRV Emergency Response Rescue Vessel[12]
EV Exploration Vessel
FPSO Floating production storage and offloading vessel[10]
FPV Free Piston Vessel[citation needed]
FPV Fishery Protection Vessel[10]
FT Factory Stern Trawler
FV Fishing Vessel
GTS Gas Turbine Ship
HLV Heavy lift vessel
HMT Hired military transport[13] (not currently in use)
HMHS His(/Her) Majesty's Hospital Ship
HSC High Speed Craft[10]
HSF High Speed Ferry[citation needed]
HTV Heavy transport vessel
IRV International Research Vessel[citation needed]
ITB Integrated Tug barge[citation needed]
LB Liftboat
LNG/C Liquefied natural gas carrier
LPG/C Liquefied petroleum gas carrier
MF Motor ferry
MFV Motor fishing vessel (mainly UK Royal Naval Reserve)
MS (M/S) Motor ship[10] (interchangeable with MV)
MSV Multipurpose support/supply vessel
MSY Motor Sailing Yacht
MT Motor Tanker
MTS Marine towage and salvage/tugboat
MV (M/V) Motor Vessel[10] (interchangeable with MS)
MY (M/Y) Motor Yacht
NB Narrowboat
NRV NATO Research Vessel
NS Nuclear ship
OSV Offshore supply vessel
PS Paddle steamer
PSV Platform supply vessel
QSMV Quadruple screw motor vessel[10]
QTEV Quadruple turbo electric vessel
RMS Royal Mail Ship[10] or Royal Mail Steamer
RNLB Royal National Lifeboat
RRS Royal Research Ship
RV / RSV Research vessel/Research Survey Vessel[14]
SB Sailing Barge[citation needed]
SL Steam Launch[citation needed]
SS (S/S) Single-screw steamship[10]
(also used as generic term for any steam-powered ship)
SSCV Semi-submersible crane vessel
SSS Sea Scout Ship
SSV Sailing School Vessel,[citation needed] or
Submarine and Special Warfare Support Vessel[15]
ST Steam tug or
Steam trawler
STS Sail training ship
STV Sail Training Vessel or
Steam Turbine Vessel
SV (S/V) Sailing Vessel
SY (S/Y) sailing yacht or
steam yacht
TB Tug boat
TIV Turbine Installation Vessel
TEV Turbine electric vessel
TrSS Triple-screw steamship or steamer[10]
TS Training Ship or
turbine steamship or turbine steam ship
Tr.SMV Triple-Screw Motor Vessel
TSMV Twin-Screw Motor Vessel[16]
TSS Twin-screw steamship or steamer[10]
TST Twin-screw tug
TT (T/T) "Tender to" ..., the prefix is placed on the tender followed by the name of the mother ship; or Turbine Tanker[citation needed]
TV Training vessel
ULCC Ultra Large Crude Carrier
VLCC Very Large Crude Carrier
YD Yard derrick
YT Yard Tug
YMT Yard Motor Tug
YTB Yard Tug Big
YTL Yard Tug Little
YTM Yard Tug Medium
YW Water barge, self-propelled
YWN Water barge, non-propelled
YOS Concrete vessel

National or military prefixes[edit]

Country Service Prefix Meaning
 Albania Albanian Naval Force ALS Albanian Ship (NATO prefix)
 Algeria Algerian National Navy ANS Algerian Navy Ship
 Argentina Argentine Navy ARA Navy of the Argentine Republic (Spanish: Armada de la República Argentina)
Argentine Coast Guard GC Argentine Coast Guard Ship (Spanish: Guardacostas)
 Australia Royal Australian Navy HMAS His Majesty's Australian Ship/Submarine/Station
NUSHIP New Ship/Submarine (Yet to be commissioned)
ADV Australian Defence Vessel (non-commissioned naval-operated ships)
MSA Minesweeper Auxiliary[17]
Australian Customs and Border Protection Service ACV Australian Customs Vessel
Australian Border Force ABFC Australian Border Force Cutter
Australia (pre-Federation) Colonial navies of Australia HMCS His Majesty's Colonial Ship
HMQS His Majesty's Queensland Ship (Queensland Maritime Defence Force)
HMVS His Majesty's Victorian Ship (Victorian Naval Forces)
 Austria-Hungary Austro-Hungarian Navy SMS Seiner Majestät Schiff (His Majesty's Ship)
 Azerbaijan Azerbaijani Navy ARG Azərbaycan Respublikasının hərbi Gəmisi (Warship of the Republic of Azerbaijan)
 Bahamas Royal Bahamas Defence Force HMBS His Majesty's Bahamian Ship
 Bahrain Royal Bahrain Naval Force RBNS Royal Bahrain Naval Ship
 Bangladesh Bangladesh Coast Guard CGS Coast Guard Ship
Bangladesh Navy BNS Bangladesh Navy Ship
 Barbados Barbados Coast Guard BCGS Barbados Coast Guard Ship
 Belgium Belgian Navy BNS Belgian Naval Ship (NATO prefix)
 Brazil Brazilian Navy (No Official Prefix) Brazilian naval prefix indicates ship type.
 British Raj Royal Indian Marine (1892–1934) RIMS Royal Indian Marine Ship
Royal Indian Navy (1934–1950) HMIS His Majesty's Indian Ship
 Brunei Royal Brunei Navy KDB Kapal Di-Raja Brunei (Royal Brunei Ship)
 Bulgaria Bulgarian Navy BNG NATO Designation
 Canada Royal Canadian Navy
(formerly Canadian Forces Maritime Command)
His Majesty's Canadian Ship
(French: Navire canadien de Sa Majesté)
Canadian Forces Auxiliary Vessel
(French: Navire auxiliaire des Forces canadiennes)
Canadian Coast Guard CCGS
Canadian Coast Guard Ship
(French: Navire de Garde côtière canadienne)
Canadian Coast Guard Cutter
(French: Cotre de Garde côtière canadienne)
(no longer used)
Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Department of Transport, and predecessor departments CGS Canadian Government Ship
(no longer used)
CSS Canadian Survey Ship
(no longer used)
DGS Dominion Government Ship
(no longer used)
Royal Canadian Sea Cadets SCTV
Sea Cadet Training Vessel
(French: Navire école des cadets de la Marine)
 People's Republic of China People's Liberation Army Navy (No Official Prefix)
 Colombia Armada Nacional ARC Armada de la República de Colombia (Navy of the Republic of Colombia)
 Confederate States Confederate States Navy CSS Confederate States Ship
 Cook Islands Cook Islands Police CIPPB Cook Islands Police Patrol Boat
 Czech Republic Czech Navy CRS Czech Republic Ship
 Denmark Royal Danish Navy HDMS (Danish: KDM) His/Her Danish Majesty's Ship (Danish: Kongelige Danske Marine)
HDMY (Danish: KDM) His/Her Danish Majesty's Yacht, crewed by Royal Danish Navy
 Ecuador Armada Ecuatoriana BAE Buque de la Armada de Ecuador (Ecuadorian Navy Ship)
 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 for international identification only and never used internally.
 France French Navy FS French Ship (NATO designation); Prefixes are for international identification only and never used internally.
 German Empire Kaiserliche Marine SMS Seiner Majestät Schiff (His Majesty's Ship)
SMU Seiner Majestät Unterseeboot (His Majesty's Submarine)
 Nazi Germany Kriegsmarine (No Official Prefix)
 West Germany Bundesmarine FGS Federal German Ship (NATO designation); Only used for international identification and never used internally.[18]
 East Germany Volksmarine
 Germany German Navy FGS Federal German Ship (NATO designation); Only used for international identification and never used internally.[18]
 Kingdom of Greece Royal Hellenic Navy VP (Greek: ΒΠ) "Royal Ship" (Greek: Βασιλικόν Πλοίον, romanizedVassilikón Ploíon); Some English Language authors uses RHNS for Royal Hellenic Navy Ship or HHMS for His Hellenic Majesty's Ship.
 Greece Hellenic Navy HS Hellenic Ship (NATO designation); Only used for international identification, as prefix indicates ship type internally.
 Guyana Guyanese Coast Guard[19] GDFS Guyanese Defence Forces Ship
 Kingdom of Hawaii Hawaiian Navy HHMS His Hawaiian Majesty's Ship; the only one being Kaimiloa
 Iceland Icelandic Coast Guard ICGV (Icelandic: VS) Icelandic Coast Guard Vessel, (Icelandic:Varðskip)
 India Indian Coast Guard ICGS Indian Coast Guard Ship
Indian Navy INS Indian Naval Ship
 Indonesia Indonesian Navy RI Republik Indonesia (Republic of Indonesia). Obsolete prefix used until 1960s.[20]
KRI Kapal Republik Indonesia (Ship of The Republic of Indonesia)
KAL Kapal Angkatan Laut (Navy Ship). For smaller boats which have a length less than 36m, and made from fiberglass.
Republic of Indonesia KL Kapal Layar (Sailing Ship)
Republic of Indonesia KM Kapal Motor (Motor Ship)
Republic of Indonesia KN Kapal Negara (State Ship)
 Imperial Iran Imperial Iranian Navy IIS[21] Imperial Iranian Ship (Persian: ناو شاهنشاهی ایران)
 Iran Islamic Republic of Iran Navy IRIS[22] Islamic Republic of Iran ship (Persian: ناو جمهوری اسلامی ایران)
 Ireland Irish Naval Service Long Éireannach (Irish ship)
Commissioners of Irish Lights ILV Irish Lights Vessel (Lighthouse tender)
 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
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 Majesty's Jamaican Ship
 Empire of Japan Imperial Japanese Navy (No Official Prefix)
 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
 North Korea Korean People's Navy (No Official Prefix) Does not use any prefixes at all, either for international identification or for ship type indication.
 Kuwait Kuwait Naval Force KNS Kuwait Navy Ship
 Korean Empire Imperial Korean Navy KIS Korean Imperial 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)
LNS Lithuanian Ship (NATO designation)
 Malaysia Royal Malaysian Navy KD Kapal Di-Raja – His Majesty's Ship, literal: Royal Ship.
KLD Kapal Layar Di-Raja - His Majesty's Sailing Ship, literal: Royal Sailing Ship. (Used by KLD Tunas Samudera)
Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency KM Kapal Maritim – Maritime Ship
 Marshall Islands Marshall Islands Police RMIS Republic of the Marshall Islands Ship
 Federated States of Micronesia FSM National Police FSM Federated States of Micronesia
 Mexico Armada de México ARM Armada de la República Mexicana
 Myanmar Myanmar Navy UMS Union of Myanmar Ship (Burmese: Myanmar Sit Yay Yin)
 Namibia Namibian Navy NS Namibian Ship
 Netherlands Royal Netherlands Navy HNLMS (Dutch: Zr.Ms./Hr.Ms.) His/Her Netherlands Majesty's Ship (Dutch: Zijner/Harer Majesteits)
 New Zealand Royal New Zealand Navy HMNZS His 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), in use since 1946.
HNoMY (Norwegian: KS) His Norwegian Majesty's Yacht (Norwegian: Kongenskipet). The only vessel with the prefix, HNoMY Norge, is owned by the King but crewed by his Navy since 1948.
King of Norway KSJ King's Sloop Norwegian: Kongesjaluppen Used on two small motorised pleasure vessels named Stjernen & Stjernen (II) owned by the King from 1899-1940 and 1945-present.
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 Pakistan Naval Ship
Pakistan Maritime Security Agency PMSS Pakistan Maritime Security Ship
 Palau Palau Police PSS Palau State Ship
 Papua New Guinea Papua New Guinea Defence Force HMPNGS His/Her Majesty's Papua New Guinea Ship
 Paraguay Paraguayan Navy ARP Armada de la República del Paraguay (Navy of the Republic of Paraguay)
 Peru Peruvian Navy BAP Peruvian Navy Ship (Spanish: Buque Armada Peruana), Since 1921
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 Okręt Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej
(Warship of the Republic of Poland)
 Portugal Marinha Portuguesa NRP Navio da República Portuguesa (Ship of the Portuguese Republic)
PNS Portuguese Navy Ship (NATO designation); Never used internally.
UAM Unidade Auxiliar da Marinha – Navy Auxiliary Unit (used by non-military ships of Portuguese Navy)
 Prussia Prussian Navy SMS Seiner Majestät Schiff (His Majesty's Ship)
 Kingdom of Romania Royal Romanian Navy NMS Nava Majestăţii Sale (His/Her Majesty's Ship)
 Romania Romanian Navy ROS Romanian Ship (NATO designation); Prefixes are for international identification only and never used internally.
SMR Serviciul Maritim Român (Romanian Maritime Service); used by transport ships
 Russian Empire Imperial Russian Navy (No Official Prefix)
 Russia Russian Navy RFS Russian Federation Ship (NATO designation; Prefixes are for international identification only and never used internally.
 Saudi Arabia Saudi Navy HMS His Majesty's Ship (Same as the Royal Navy)
 Singapore Republic of Singapore Navy RSS Republic of Singapore Ship
 Slovenia Slovenian Navy SNS Slovenian Naval Ship (NATO prefix)
 Solomon Islands Royal Solomon Islands Police RSIPV Royal Solomon Islands Police Vessel
 South Africa South African Navy SAS South African Ship/Suid-Afrikaanse Skip (previously HMSAS – His/Her Majesty's South African Ship)
SATS South African Training Ship
 Soviet Union Soviet Navy (No Official Prefix) Some authors use "USSRS" for "Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Ship" (Russian: Корабль Союза Советских Социалистических Республик).[23]
 Spain Armada Española ESPS Buque de la A Spanish Navy Ship (Spain does not use prefixes internally. ESPN or SPS are no longer used)
 Sri Lanka Sri Lankan Navy SLNS Sri Lanka Naval Ship
Sri Lanka Coast Guard SLCG Sri Lanka Coast Guard
 Sweden Swedish Navy HMS (English: HSwMS) Hans/Hennes Majestäts Skepp (His/Her Majesty's Ship)
HSwMS (His/Her Swedish Majesty's Ship) is used in English to avoid confusion with Royal Navy ships
Swedish Coast Guard KBV Swedish Coast Guard Vessel (Swedish: Kustbevakningen)
 Republic of China (Taiwan) Republic of China Navy ROCS Republic of China Ship; CNS for "Chinese Navy Ship" was used before 1949
 Thailand Royal Thai Navy HTMS His Thai Majesty's Ship
 Timor-Leste Timor Leste Defense Force NRTL Navio da República de Timor Leste (Ship of the Timor Leste Republic)
 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 Tuvalu Surveillance Ship[24][25]
 Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force TTS Trinidad and Tobago Ship
 United Kingdom Ships carrying mail RMS Royal Mail Steamer/Ship
Cable ship HMTV His Majesty's Telegraph Vessel
Motor Ship MS Motor Ship. Cruise ships such as the MS Queen Elizabeth, which do not carry post
Fishery protection vessels FPV Fisheries Protection Vessel
Royal Air Force HMAFV His Majesty's Air Force Vessel (not currently in use)
Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships RFA Royal Fleet Auxiliary
Royal Maritime Auxiliary
RMAS Royal Maritime Auxiliary Ship (now obsolete)
Royal Naval Auxiliary Service XSV Auxiliary Service Vessel (now obsolete)
Royal Navy HM Sloop His Majesty's Sloop (now obsolete)
HMS His Majesty's Ship/Submarine
HMSm His Majesty's Submarine (not currently in use)
HMT Hired Military Transport[26][13] (not currently in use)
His Majesty's Transport/Troopship/Trawler/Tug[27]
HMAV His Majesty's Armed Vessel[28] (not currently in use)
HMY His Majesty's Yacht (not currently in use)
HMMGB His Majesty's Motor Gun Boat (not currently in use)
HMM His Majesty's Monitor (not currently in use)
HMSML His Majesty's Small Motor Launch
HBMS His Britannic Majesty's Ship (archaic)
HM His Majesty's, then used with the type of ship in military use (e.g. "HM Trawler" or "HM Rescue Tug")
Hospital Ships HMHS His Majesty's Hospital Ship
Joint Services Sail Training Yachts (JSASTC) 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)
Commissioners of Irish Lights ILV Irish Lights Vessel (Lighthouse tender)
British Army HMAV Her Majesty's Army Vessel[29]
RCLV Royal Corps of Logistics Vessel (not currently in use)
Government research ships RRS Royal Research Ship
HM Revenue and Customs/Border Force HMCC, HMC His Majesty's Customs Cutter shortened to His Majesty's Cutter after being transferred to Border Force
HM Customs and Excise (replaced by HMRC, above) HMRC His Majesty's Revenue Cutter (not used since 18 April 2005). Also His Majesty's Revenue Cruiser (as per HMRC Vigilant 1947. Not used since ca. 1960)
 United States United States Air Force USAF, USAFS United States Air Force ship (not currently in use)
United States Army (modern) USAS United States Army Ship (modern)
USAV United States Army Vessel (modern)
United States Army (historical)
USAT United States Army Transport (large Army owned bareboat chartered troop or cargo transports, not in use after 1950)
USACT United States Army Chartered Transport (usage WW I only for time or voyage chartered ships; eg: Artemis 1917—1919)
USAMP U.S. Army Mine Planter (not currently in use)
USAJMP U.S. Army Junior Mine Planter (not currently in use)
U.S. Army Vessels not otherwise designated: tugs, FS, Q, P etc. (not currently in use)
USAHS United States Army Hospital Ship (not currently in use)
United States Navy USF United States Frigate (obsolete)
USFS United States Flagship (obsolete)
USS United States Ship – Commissioned warships only.[5]
USNV United States Naval Vessel (Small utility vessels, not MSC, operated by local commands)[30]
U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command (MSC) USNS United States Naval Ship (USN-owned, civilian crews)
United States Coast Guard USCGC United States Coast Guard Cutter
USCGD United States Coast Guard Destroyer (not currently in use)
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAAS National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Ship
United States Coast and Geodetic Survey USC&GS United States Coast and Geodetic Survey (obsolete); occasionally a second "S" for "survey ship" was used
United States Environmental Protection Agency US EPA United States Environmental Protection Agency; no "S" for "ship" is used
United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries USFC United States Fish Commission (obsolete); commonly used informal name for the Commission; no "S" for "ship" was used
United States Bureau of Fisheries USFS United States Fisheries Service (obsolete); alternative informal name for the Bureau; no "S" for "ship" was used
United States Fish and Wildlife Service US FWS United States Fish and Wildlife Service; no "S" for "ship" used
United States Lighthouse Service USLHT United States Lighthouse Tender (obsolete)
United States Revenue-Marine (1790–1894) United States Revenue Cutter Service (1894-1915) USRC United States Revenue Cutter (obsolete)
 Uruguay Uruguayan Navy ROU República 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 República de Venezuela Not in use 1999
ARBV Armada República Bolivariana de Venezuela
 Vietnam Vietnam People's Navy VPNS Vietnam People's Navy Ship (never used; sometimes used by international media or naval forces to name the ships but never formally and internally recognized by Vietnamese officials & state media)
 South Vietnam Republic of Vietnam Navy RVNS Republic of Vietnam Navy Ship or Republic of Viet-Nam Ship (obsolete)
 Kingdom of Yugoslavia Royal Yugoslav Navy KB Serbian: Краљевски брод, romanizedKraljevski brod (English: Royal Ship)
 Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
 Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
 Serbia and Montenegro
Jugoslovenska Ratna Mornarica JRM (English: Yugoslavia war navy) Yugoslav Navy 1969–1992

Ratna Mornarica Vojske Jugoslavije RМVЈ (English: War navy of Yugoslavia Armed Forces) 1992–2003

RTOP Raketna Topovnjača or Ракетна Топовњача (English: Rocket gunship), named by Yugoslavia peoples heroes
Raketni Čamac or Ракетни Чамац (English: Rocket boat), 1969–1992, named by Yugoslavia peoples heroes
VPBR Veliki Patrolni Brod or Велики Патролни Брод (English: Big patrol ship), 1969–1992, named by Yugoslavia coastal towns
Torpedni Čamac or Торпедни Чамац (English: Torpedo boat), 1969–1992
Patrolni Čamac or Патролни Чамац (English: Patrol boat), 1969–1992, named by mountains
PO Pomoćni Oružar or Помоћни Оружар (English: Auxiliary аrmourer), 1969–1992
RML Rečni minolovac or Речни миноловац (English: River minesweepers), 1969–1992, named by places of WWII battles
RPB Rečni patrolni brod or Речни патролни брод (English: River patrol boat), 1969–1992
P Podmornica or Подморница (English: Submarine), 1969–1992, named by rivers or human qualities
Razarač Eskortni or Разарач Ескортни (English: Escort destroyer), 1969–1992
PT Pomoćni transportni or Помоћни транспортни (English: Auxiliary transport), 1969–1992
Desantni čamci or Десантни чамци (English: Landing craft), 1969–1992

Prefix conventions[edit]

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 internet. Until the moment a Dutch naval ship officially enters active service in the fleet, the ship's name is used without the prefix.[31] Since King Willem-Alexander succeeded Queen Beatrix on 30 April 2013, "Hr.Ms." is replaced by "Zr.Ms.".

In Australia, the prefix NUSHIP is used to denote ships that have yet to be commissioned into the fleet.[32]

In the United States, all prefixes other than "USS", "USNS", "USNV", and "USRC" were made obsolete in 1901, when President Theodore Roosevelt issued an Executive order fixing American naval nomenclature.[5] USRC was replaced by USCGC when the Revenue Cutter Service merged with the United States Lifesaving Service to become the United States Coast Guard in 1915.[33] USLHT also was replaced by USCGC when the United States Lighthouse Service became a part of the U.S. Coast Guard in 1939. USC&GS was replaced by NOAAS when the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey merged with other U.S. Government scientific agencies to form the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 1970. USFC was replaced by USFS when the United States Commission on Fish and Fisheries was reorganized as the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries in 1903, and USFS in turn was replaced in 1940 by US FWS when the Bureau of Fisheries merged with the United States Department of the Interior's Division of Biological Survey to form the Department of the Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service (which in 1956 was reorganized as the United States Fish and Wildlife Service). Seagoing ships Fish and Wildlife Service ships with the prefix US FWS that were transferred to NOAA when NOAA was created in 1970 switched to the NOAAS prefix.

A United States Navy ship that is not in active commission does not hold the title of United States Ship with simply the name without prefix used before and after commissioned service.[5] Vessels, such as yard and harbor craft that are not commissioned and "in service" are officially referred to by name or hull number without prefix.[5] Prior to commissioning, ships may be described as a pre-commissioning unit or PCU; for example, the USS Gerald R. Ford was described as the "pre-commissioning unit (PCU) Gerald R. Ford" prior to her commissioning in 2017.[34] [5] Military Sealift Command (MSC) civilian crewed ships "in service" are given the prefix United States Naval Ship (USNS).[5]

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.

In science fiction[edit]

Fictional equivalents of tri-letter prefixes frequently appear in English-language science fiction works, applied to seafaring and spaceborne ships alike.

  • Star Trek – the United Federation of Planets uses the prefix "USS" for its starships. Dialogue in earlier episodes of the series indicated that it referred to "United Space Ship".[35] In the alternate "Mirror Universe", the Terran Empire use an "ISS" prefix instead. Other races use different prefixes for their ships:
    • Klingons use IKS (Imperial Klingon Ship) or IKC (Imperial Klingon Cruiser).
    • Romulan vessels typically receive the prefix IRW (Imperial Romulan Warbird), or RIS where some speculate that it means "Romulan Imperial Ship", and ChR. (ChR is from novelist Diane Duane's imagining of the Star Trek Universe, in which the Romulans refer to their home planet as "Ch'Rihan". Though Duane's version has a loyal following among many fans, it is not considered official Star Trek canon; similarly, the Ferengi designation of FMS, and the Cardassian CDS, are also not canon.)
  • Star Wars – The Galactic Empire sometimes uses the prefix ISD for Imperial Star Destroyer.
  • Babylon 5 – The Earth Alliance uses the prefix "EAS" for "Earth Alliance Ship". Some fan material also uses it for "Earth Alliance Station".
  • Elite: Dangerous – The Federation uses the prefix "FNS" (Federal Naval Ship) for some military ships. The Empire uses "INV" (Imperial Naval Vessel). The alliance uses "ADF" (Alliance Defense Force).
  • Firefly – Vessels in the Union of Allied Planets fleet are given the prefix "IAV", for Interstellar Alliance Vessel.
  • Wing Commander – The Terran Confederation uses TCS (Terran Confederation Ship) for its vessels.
  • HaloUnited Nations Space Command spacecraft use the prefix "UNSC". The Covenant use three letter designations for ship class such as CAS or CSO
  • Mass Effect – features several prefixes, primarily "SSV" for "Systems Alliance space vehicle"[36] and "MSV" for "Merchant Space Vehicle", used on numerous human commercial ships, as well as "PFS" for a Turian Hierarchy naval craft, and a freighter AML Demeter of unknown affiliation.
  • Dead Space – "USG", standing for "United Spacefaring Guild", which oversees civilian spacecraft operation, including the planet-cracker class leader USG Ishimura of the Concordance Extraction Corporation; "USM" for the Earth Defense Force of EarthGov; and "CMS" for its former opponents, the Sovereign Colonies Armed Forces.
  • StarCraft: Brood War – The United Earth Directorate uses DSS (presumably for Directorate Space Ship, e. g. DSS Aleksander); the Terran Confederacy used CSF (Confederate Space Fleet, e. g. CSF Ragnorak) for their battlecruisers.
  • Killzone – The Interplanetary Strategic Alliance (ISA) uses "ISC", for Interplanetary Strategic Cruiser.
  • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – The Federated Nations use "FNS", presumably meaning "Federated Nations Ship".
  • Alien – The ships use prefix "USCSS" for "United States Cargo SpaceShip" on the Nostromo, Prometheus, and Covenant.
  • The Lost Fleet – The Alliance use the prefix "ASN" for "Allied Systems Navy" (or possibly "Alliance of Systems Navy"), the Syndicate Worlds do not use prefixes.
  • CoDominium – CoDominium vessels use the prefix "CDS" for CoDominium Ship.
  • "Honorverse" – The Manticoran kingdom uses "HMS" as a prefix, the Graysons use "GNS"(Grayson Navy Ship), and the Havenite ships use "PNS" (People's Navy Ship) and later "RHNS" (Republic of Haven Navy Ship), being reflections of actual ship prefixing traditions, and mirroring the Napoleonic wars. The Solarian League uses "SLNS" (Solarian League Navy Ship) and the Andermani Empire uses "IANS" for Imperial Andermani Navy Ship.
  • The Culture – Ships are identified by a three-letter prefix denoting class (such as GSV for "General Systems Vehicle" or ROU for "Rapid Offensive Unit"), followed by their personal name.
  • The Expanse – Ships of the United Nations Navy use the prefix "UNN," while ships of the Martian Congressional Republic Navy are prefixed with "MCRN". The Nauvoo, a generation ship commissioned by the Church of Latter Day Saints was prefixed with "LDSS" for "Latter Day Saints' Ship", and later changed to "OPAS" and re-christened as the "OPAS Behemoth" representing the Outer Planets Alliance.
  • Unreal Tournament – Ships mentioned there have prefixes such as ITV ("Interstellar Transport Vessel", the first non-tutorial match in the tournament happens on board of ITV Oblivion) and ISV ("Interstellar Science Vessel", ship's name being ISV-Kran from Unreal).
  • Unreal: Return to Na Pali – ISV (ISV-Kran) and UMS ("Unified Military Services", a prefix for warships).
  • The Orville—The Planetary Union uses the prefix "USS", presumably for "Union Space Ship" (in homage to Star Trek).
  • Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon - The Terran Empire uses the prefix RLS, which stands for Royal Light Ship; this is also a direct homage to Robert Louis Stevenson, author of the original Treasure Island. The Procyon Expanse uses the prefix PSR, which stands for Procyon Star Runner.
  • Destroyermen - the Grand Alliance uses the "USS" prefix, since all Allied warships are run by the Americaan (sic) Clan. The Alliance's only airship is given the prefix "UHAS" (United Homes Air Ship). The Empire of New Britain Isles uses "HIMS" (His/Her Imperial Majesty's Ship). The Republic of Real People uses "RRPS" (Republic of Real People Ship). The New United States uses "NUSS" (New United States Ship). Neither the Holy Dominion nor the League of Tripoli use prefixes, although the KMS Hessen is mentioned once, it is not clear if the prefix is internally used or not.
  • Titanfall - The Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation, The Main Antagonists of the Series, Use the "IMS" prefix. The origin of this Prefix is unknown.
  • FreeSpace - A variety of ship prefixes are used depending on the species, faction allegiance, and class of the vehicle. Prominent examples include: "GT" and "GV" for "Galactic Terran" and "Galactic Vasudan" respectively, "NT" for "Neo-Terran," "PV" for "Parliamentary Vasudan," and just "S" for "Shivan." These are then further supplemented with a type of ship identifier following the species and faction prefixes, such as "B" for "Bomber," "C" for "Cruiser," "Cv" for "Corvette," "D" for "Destroyer," and "F" for "Fighter," among many examples. As such, "PVD" would indicate a "Parliamentary Vasudan Destroyer," "NTF" would indicate a "Neo-Terran Fighter," "GTC" would indicate a "Galactic Terran Cruiser", "GVCv" would indicate a "Galactic Vasudan Corvette," and "SB" would indicate a "Shivan Bomber."


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