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March 26, 2024

What are the regulations around Dry Docking? A Guide for Ship Owners

Why dry dock your ship? Take a look at some of the regulations which dictate when and why, outlining rules for the maintenance and safety of your vessels.

view of a ship from below while in dry dock

Navigating Dry Docking Regulations: A Guide for Ship Owners

Dry docking, a crucial aspect of ship maintenance, is more than just a routine task for ship owners and operators. It's a legal requirement governed by stringent regulations to ensure the safety and efficiency of commercial vessels. Let's delve into the depths of dry docking regulations to understand its significance and implications for the maritime industry.

Why Dry Dock your vessel?

Dry docking is essential for maintaining the integrity and performance of ships. It serves two primary objectives:

  1. Hull Maintenance: Over time, a ship's hull accumulates rust and marine growth, hampering its speed and fuel efficiency. Dry docking allows for thorough cleaning, de-scaling, and painting of the hull, restoring it to its optimal condition.
  2. Inspections and Repairs: Underwater components and the hull are inspected for defects during dry docking. Any necessary repairs or corrective measures can be undertaken to ensure the vessel's seaworthiness and compliance with safety standards.
Regulatory framework

The legal framework governing dry docking is primarily established by the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). According to SOLAS regulations, cargo ships must undergo dry docking at least twice within a five-year interval. The time between consecutive dry dockings should not exceed three years, with a minimum interval of two years.

Classification societies interpret and enforce these regulations, often specifying a standard interval of thirty months with a window period of plus or minus six months from the anniversary date. These intervals ensure that ships undergo regular inspections and maintenance to uphold safety standards.

Evolution of dry docking practices

Dry docking practices have evolved significantly over the years, driven by technological advancements and changes in shipping patterns. Previously, cargo ships were dry docked annually, reflecting the standards of that era. However, improvements in steel quality, paint materials, and longer periods spent at sea have led to revised regulations.

Today, dry docking is integrated into a five-year cycle of surveys, with specific dry-docking periods scheduled during intermediate and special surveys for the renewal of class certificates. These changes streamline the process and ensure that inspections and repairs are conducted efficiently without disrupting vessel operations.

Special circumstances and considerations

While routine dry docking is mandated by regulations, there are exceptions and special circumstances to consider. Afloat underwater inspections may be recommended in cases where scheduled dry docking is missed due to genuine reasons. However, such inspections require approval from the relevant authorities and are limited to specific scenarios.

Additionally, dry docking becomes imperative after accidents involving underwater damage, such as grounding or collisions. In such cases, repairs are focused on addressing the damage sustained, ensuring the vessel's seaworthiness and compliance with safety standards.

Ensuring compliance - how Shipnet can help

As ship owners and operators navigate the intricate waters of dry docking regulations, having the right tools at their disposal is paramount. That's where Shipnet comes in.

Shipnet offers a comprehensive dry docking software solution designed to streamline and organise all aspects of ship maintenance and technical projects. From planning and tracking scheduled maintenance to managing various technical endeavors throughout the year, Shipnet's platform reduces reliance on paper-based systems, minimises human error, and ensures compliance with regulatory requirements.

By leveraging Shipnet's software, ship owners and operators can efficiently manage their fleets, keeping vessels safe and compliant with industry standards. This not only safeguards cargo but also ensures the well-being of crew members navigating the seas. With Shipnet by your side, navigating the complexities of dry docking regulations becomes a smoother and more manageable journey.


Dry docking is not merely a maintenance task but a legal requirement vital for ensuring the safety, integrity, and efficiency of commercial vessels. By adhering to stringent regulations and conducting regular inspections and repairs, ship owners and operators uphold the highest standards of maritime safety and contribute to the sustainability of the industry. As technology continues to advance and regulations evolve, staying informed and compliant remains paramount in navigating the complexities of dry docking in the ever-changing seas of the maritime world.

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Niall Jack
Director, Product Management

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