The scope and complexity of many of the new natural gas projects have created a unique opportunity for classification societies to contribute to technical developments across the entire gas transportation chain. This paper discusses, in broad terms, the role classification societies play in developing and setting the standards for the transportation of natural gas. It highlights observations and trends from a class society viewpoint. Class is the third party independent verification agent responsible for reviewing and approving LNG vessel designs to accepted industry technical criteria as well as surveying the vessels during construction and throughout their operational life.

The demand for natural gas is driving a significant increase in the size of liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers. Latest designs are for vessels upward of 50 percent larger than those currently in service. These larger designs call for close attention not only to the ship's overall structure but also to the containment system to verify that it is able to withstand the dynamic loads caused by the movement of liquid inside the tanks.

This same demand is also posing difficulties for importers in developed nations. Social, political and safety concerns are limiting opportunities to build needed terminals onshore. As LNG technology that has traditionally been onshore moves to offshore facilities as a viable alternative, class societies are addressing the numerous technical challenges associated with "marinizing" cargo handling, storage, liquefaction and regasification systems.

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