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A ship prefix is a combination of letters, usually abbreviations, used in front of the name of a civilian or naval ship which have historically served numerous purposes, such as identifying the vessel’s mode of propulsion, purpose, or ownership/nationality. In the modern environment prefixes are used inconsistently in civilian service, however, in government service the vessels prefix is seldom missing due to government regulations dictating a certain prefix be present. 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 used prefixes; this includes the significant navies of China, France and Russia.
Historically, prefixes for civilian vessels often identified the vessel’s mode of propulsion, such as, “SS” (steam-ship), “MV” (motor vessel), or "PS” (paddle steamer).
Alternatively, they might have reflected a vessel’s purpose, e.g. “RMS” (Royal Mail Ship), or “RV" (research vessel).
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.
In terms of vessels used by nations’ armed services, prefixes primarily reflect ownership – but may also indicate a vessels 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 #549 of 1907 which made "United States Ship" (USS) the standard signifier for USN ships on active commissioned service. In the United States Navy that prefix officially only applies while the 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.
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 used prefixes; this includes the significant navies of China, France and Russia.
From the 20th century onwards, most navies identify ships by letters or hull numbers (pennant numbers) 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.
These tables list both current and historical prefixes known to have been used.
National or military prefixes
|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/Her Majesty's Australian Ship/Submarine/Station|
|NUSHIP||New Ship/Submarine (Yet to be commissioned)|
|ADV||Australian Defence Vessel (non-commissioned naval-operated ships)|
|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/Her Majesty's Colonial Ship|
|HMQS||His/Her Majesty's Queensland Ship (Queensland Maritime Defence Force)|
|HMVS||His/Her Majesty's Victorian Ship (Victorian Naval Forces)|
|Austria-Hungary||Austro-Hungarian Navy||SMS||Seiner Majestät Schiff (English: His Majesty's Ship)|
|Bahamas||Royal Bahamas Defence Force||HMBS||His/Her Majesty's Bahamian Ship|
|Bangladesh||Bangladesh Coast Guard||CGS||Coast Guard Ship|
|Bangladesh Navy||BNS||Bangladesh Navy Ship|
|Barbados||Barbados Defence Force||HMBS||His/Her Majesty's Barbadian Ship|
|Belgium||Belgian Navy||BNS||Belgium Naval Ship (NATO prefix)|
|Brunei||Royal Brunei Navy||KDB||Kapal Di-Raja Brunei – Royal Brunei Ship|
|Burma||Myanmar Navy||UMS||Myanmar Sit Yay Yin – Union of Myanmar Ship|
|Bulgaria||Bulgarian Navy||BNG||NATO Designation|
|Canada||Royal Canadian Navy, formerly Canadian Forces Maritime Command||HMCS/NCSM||His/Her Majesty's Canadian Ship/Navire canadien de Sa Majesté (French)|
|CFAV/NAFC||Canadian Forces Auxiliary Vessel/Navire auxiliaire des Forces canadiennes (French)|
|Canadian Coast Guard||CCGS/NGCC||Canadian Coast Guard Ship/Navire de Garde côtière canadienne (French)|
|CCGC/CGCC||Canadian Coast Guard Cutter/Cotre de Garde côtière canadienne (French) (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||SCTS/NECM||Sea Cadet Training Ship/Navire école des cadets de la Marine (French)|
|China||People's Liberation Army Navy||—||No official prefix; some authors use "CNS" (Chinese Navy Ship) or "PLANS" (People's Liberation Army Navy Ship)|
|Colombia||Armada Nacional||ARC||Armada de la República de Colombia|
|Confederate States||Confederate States Navy||CSS||Confederate States Ship|
|Cook Islands||Cook Islands Police||CIPPB||Cook Islands Police Patrol Boat|
|Denmark||Royal Danish Navy||HDMS (Danish: KDM)||His/Her Danish Majesty's Ship (Danish: Kongelige Danske Marine)|
|Ecuador||Armada Ecuatoriana||BAE||Buque de la Armada de Ecuador|
|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 not used in Finnish-language communications.|
|France||French Navy||OF||Okręt Francuski (Polish French Ship); used in 1940–41 for French destroyer Ouragan|
|FS||French Ship (NATO designation); France does not use prefixes internally|
|German Empire||Kaiserliche Marine||SM U##||Seiner Majestät Unterseeboot (English: His Majesty's Submarine)|
|SMS||Seiner Majestät Schiff (English: His Majesty's Ship)|
|Nazi Germany||Kriegsmarine||—||No official prefix at the time; "DKM" ("Deutsche Kriegsmarine") or "KMS" ("Kriegsmarine Schiffe") are used in some post war literature.|
|West Germany||Bundesmarine||FGS||Federal German Ship (NATO designation; West Germany did not use prefixes internally)|
|Germany (reunited)||German Navy||FGS||Federal German Ship (NATO designation, German ships do not use prefixes internally)|
|Kingdom of Greece||Royal Hellenic Navy||ΒΠ (VP)||Βασιλικόν Πλοίον (Vassilikón Ploíon), "Royal Ship"; RHS (Royal Hellenic Ship) or HHMS (His Hellenic Majesty's Ship) in use by English-language authors and contemporary foreign navies.|
|Greece||Hellenic Navy||HS||Hellenic Ship: NATO designation, used in international communications; internally the Hellenic Navy uses prefixes indicating ship type.|
|Guyana||Guyanese Coast Guard||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 Navy (pre-Republic)||HMIS||His/Her Majesty's Indian Ship|
|India||Indian Coast Guard||ICGS||Indian Coast Guard Ship|
|Indian Navy||INS||Indian Naval Ship|
|Indonesia||Indonesian Navy||KRI||Kapal Republik Indonesia (Republic of Indonesia Ship)|
|Republic of Indonesia||KL||Kapal Layar (Sailing Ship)|
|Republic of Indonesia||KM||Kapal Motor (Motor Ship)|
|Republic of Indonesia||KN||Kapal Negara (State Ship)|
|Iran||Imperial Iranian Navy||IIS||Imperial Iranian Ship (Persian: ناو شاهنشاهی ایران)|
|Iran||Islamic Republic of Iran Navy||IRIS||Islamic Republic of Iran ship (Persian: ناو جمهوری اسلامی ایران)|
|Ireland||Irish Naval Service||LÉ||Long Éireannach – Irish ship|
|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|
|Regia Marina||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/Her Majesty's Jamaican Ship|
|Empire of Japan||Imperial Japanese Navy||—||(no prefix; some authors use "HIJMS" for "His Imperial Japanese Majesty's Ship (for ships) or His Imperial Japanese Majesty's Submarine (for submarines)" and "IJN" for "Imperial Japanese Navy")|
|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||—||(currently unknown)|
|Kuwait||Kuwait Naval Force||KNS||Kuwait Navy Ship|
|South Korea||Republic of Korea Navy||ROKS||Republic of Korea Ship|
|Latvia||Latvian Navy||LVNS||Latvian Naval Ship (NATO designation)|
|Lietuvos Karinis Laivas – Lithuanian Military Ship
Lithuanian Ship (NATO designation)
|Malaysia||Royal Malaysian Navy||KD||Kapal Di-Raja – His Majesty's Ship, literal: Royal Ship.|
|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||Tatmadaw Yay||UMS||Myanma Sit Yay Yin – Union of Myanmar Ship|
|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, archaic Dutch language genitive, lit. "His/Her Majesty's")|
|New Zealand||Royal New Zealand Navy||HMNZS||His/Her Majesty's New Zealand Ship|
|Nigeria||Nigerian Navy||NNS||Nigerian Naval Ship|
|Norway||Royal Norwegian Navy||HNoMS (Norwegian: KNM), in use since 1946||His Norwegian Majesty's Ship (Norwegian: Kongelige Norske Marine)|
|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|
|Palau||Palau Police||PSS||Palau State Ship|
|Papua New Guinea||Papua New Guinea Defence Force||HMPNGS||His/Her Majesty's Papua New Guinea Ship|
|Peru||Peruvian Navy||BAP||Peruvian Navy Ship (Spanish: Buque Armada Peruana)|
|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, not used internally)|
|UAM||Unidade Auxiliar da Marinha – Navy Auxiliary Unit (used by the Portuguese Navy non-military ships)|
|Romania||Romanian Navy||NMS||Nava Majestăţii Sale (His/Her Majesty's Ship) – used before 1945 by the Royal Romanian Navy|
|SMR||Serviciul Maritim Român (The Romanian Sea Service) – used by transport ships|
|ROS||Romanian Ship (NATO designation, not used internally)|
|Russian Empire||Imperial Russian Navy||HIRMS||(no prefix; some authors use "HIRMS" for "His Imperial Russian Majesty's Ship")|
|Russia||Russian Navy||—||No official prefix; some authors use "RFS" (Russian: Корабль Российской Федерации)|
|Saudi Arabia||Saudi Navy||HMS||His Majesty's Ship – the same as the Royal Navy|
|Singapore||Republic of Singapore Navy||RSS||Republic of Singapore Ship|
|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" (Russian: Корабль Союза Советских Социалистических Республик (translation:). Ship of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics)|
|Spain||Armada Española||ESPS||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|
|Sweden||Swedish Navy||HMS (English: HSwMS)||Hans/Hennes Majestäts Skepp (His/Her Majesty's Ship) – in English HSwMS (His/Her Swedish Majesty's Ship) is used to avoid confusion with Royal Navy ships|
|Republic of China||Republic of China Navy||ROCS (older usage: CNS)||Republic of China Ship (older usage: Chinese Navy Ship); Note: Republic of China is the official name of Taiwan.|
|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 Tuvaluan State Ship|
|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/Her Majesty's Telegraph Vessel|
|Fishery protection vessels||FPV||Fisheries Protection Vessel|
|Royal Air Force||HMAFV||His/Her 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/Her Majesty's Sloop (now obsolete)|
|HMS||His/Her Majesty's Ship/Submarine|
|HMSm||His/Her Majesty's Submarine (not currently in use)|
|HMT||Hired Military Transport (not currently in use)|
|HMAV||His/Her Majesty's Armed Vessel (not currently in use)|
|HMY||His/Her Majesty's Yacht (not currently in use)|
|HMMGB||His/Her Majesty's Motor Gun Boat (not currently in use)|
|HMM||His/Her Majesty's Monitor (not currently in use)|
|HMSML||His/Her Majesty's Small Motor Launch|
|HBMS||His/Her Britannic Majesty's Ship (archaic)|
|HM||His/Her Majesty's, then used with the type of ship in military use (e.g. "HM Trawler" or "HM Rescue Tug")|
|Hospital Ships||HMHS||His/Her 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|
|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/Her Majesty's Customs Cutter shortened to His/Her Majesty's Cutter after being transferred to Border Force|
|HM Customs and Excise (replaced by HMRC, above)||HMRC||His/Her Majesty's Revenue Cutter (not used since 18 April 2005). Also His/Her 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 troop or cargo transports, not currently in use)|
|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 ships only. |
|USNV||United States Naval Vessel (Small utility vessels, not MSC, operated by local commands)|
|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 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||PRVNS|
|South Vietnam||Republic of Vietnam Navy||RVNS||Republic of Vietnam Navy Ship (obsolete)|
|Kingdom of Yugoslavia||Royal Yugoslav Navy||KB||Kraljevski brod or Краљевски брод (English: Royal Ship), 1918–1941|
| 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|
|RČ||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|
|TČ||Torpedni Čamac or Торпедни Чамац (English: Torpedo boat), 1969–1992|
|PČ||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|
|RЕ||Razarač Eskortni or Разарач Ескортни (English: Escort destroyer), 1969–1992|
|PT||Pomoćni transportni or Помоћни транспортни (English: Auxiliary transport), 1969–1992|
|DČ||Desantni čamci or Десантни чамци (English: Landing craft), 1969–1992|
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 World Wide Web. Until the moment a Dutch naval ship officially enters active service in the fleet, the ship's name is used without the prefix. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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. Prior to commissioning, ships may be described as a pre-commissioning unit or PCU; for example, the uncommissioned Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) has been described as the "pre-commissioning unit (PCU) Gerald R. Ford." However, the vessel's official name is Gerald R. Ford without any prefix, and will be known as USS Gerald R. Ford once commissioned. Military Sealift Command (MSC) civilian manned ships "in service" are given the prefix United States Naval Ship (USNS).
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.
Note that while calling a US ship "the USS Flattop" may make grammatical sense, the preliminary article "the" is discouraged by nearly all style guides, and the U.S. Navy. The U.S. Navy uses ship names without article, except for USS The Sullivans, named for the five Sullivan brothers, all lost at sea during World War II. Its British equivalent ("the HMS Flattop") is also discouraged, since "the Her Majesty's Ship" would be grammatically incorrect.
In science fiction
Fictional equivalents of tri-letter prefixes frequently appear in English-language science fiction works, applied to seafaring and spaceborne ships alike. See also Space navy for similar adoption of naval customs for fictional spacefaring military organizations.
- Star Trek – the United Federation of Planets uses the prefix "USS" for its starships. While Gene Roddenberry never defined what the abbreviation stood for, some speculate that it means "United Space Ship", "United Star Ship", or "United [Federation of Planets] Starfleet Starship/Ship". 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).
- Firefly – Vessels in the Union of Allied Planets fleet are given the prefix "IAV", for Interstellar Alliance Vessel.
- The Terran Confederation, from Wing Commander, uses TCS (Terran Confederation Ship) for its vessels.
- Halo – United 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" 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).
- Roosevelt, Theodore (8 January 1907). Executive Order 549. Washington, DC: President of the United States.
- "Ship Naming". Naval History and Heritage Command. Retrieved 4 November 2018.
- Launer, Donald (2006). Dictionary of Nautical Acronyms and Abbreviations. Sheridan House, Inc. ISBN 9781574092394.
- Dasgupta, Soumyajit (4 March 2013). "What are Ship Prefixes for Navy and Merchant Vessels?". Marine Insight. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
- "Maritime Acronyms and Abbreviations". Royal Institution of Naval Architects. Archived from the original on 19 August 2016. Cite uses deprecated parameter
- ""Dead Vessel" doctrine". USLegal.com. US Legal, Inc. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
- "Ship Prefix Glossary – continued". richatlanticinterserv.com. Rich Atlantic International Services. Archived from the original on 5 August 2012. Retrieved 7 February 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter
- "Submarine and Special Warfare Support Vessel". Military Sealift Command. Retrieved 3 December 2010.
- "Ships of CalMac".
- Royal Australian Navy. "MSA Brolga". navy.gov.au. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
- FGS Hessen factsheet
- "About the Coast Guard". 4 September 2008. Archived from the original on 17 July 2010. Retrieved 21 March 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter
- "Russian and Soviet Navy Battleships". frontier.com. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
- "List of Acronyms Preceding the Name of a Ship". 22 March 2010. Retrieved 22 March 2010.
- Habesch, The Army's Navy, p. 154
- Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) (25 July 2012). "Dry Dock and overhaul of USNV Battle Point YTT-10". Navy Electronic Business Opportunities. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
- Circulaire Zeemacht 1569cc (1988).
- Dasgupta, Soumyajit. "What are Ship Prefixes for Naval and Merchant Vessels?". Retrieved 25 August 2014.
- United States Coast Guard Historian's Office.
- "PCU Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) Welcomes 60 New Crew Members" (Press release). Navy News Service. 6 June 2013. NNS130606-12. Retrieved 24 July 2016.
- In-Game Codex, entry for SSV Normandy.
- Naval History And Heritage Command. "Ship Naming in the United States Navy". Naval History and Heritage Command. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
- United States Coast Guard Historian's Office (5 January 2015). "Coast Guard History". Frequently Asked Questions. United States Coast Guard. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
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