The ship lifecycle

The lifecycle of a ship will typically experience four main stages of ‘life’; namely: design, construction, repair and conversion, and end of service. When purchasing a ship it may be important to know the ships ‘life’ up until the current date of purchase, to ascertain the strength and reliability of the ship. If the ship was designed by a credible naval architect you will have confidence in the overall infrastructure of the ship.

Features of a ship’s lifecycle

There are several stages of life in which a ship will go through, which can be categorized into four main areas:


This is the initial stage of life for a ship and typically involves a naval architect performing the ship’s design. Other important parties include the ship owner and the ship yard where the vessel will be built.

This stage is imperative to get right and requires comprehensive analysis and research of ideal ship specifications, dimensions and general ship layout. It should be noted that the ship design must comply with relevant laws and marine regulations.


The construction stage is vitally important in terms of compliance with necessary health and safety regulations, marine standards and other requirements that will render the ship suitable for service.

Ship construction will almost always be carried out in a ship yard and can take up to several years to complete. The size and structure of the vessel will influence the duration of construction and also how the building will be conducted. Construction is completed once the ship is launched in the water.

Repair and Conversion

Ships require regular repair and maintenance to ensure they are consistently seaworthy and safe for navigation in waters. If a ship has a particularly active service it will require more frequent repair and maintenance work than a ship used for infrequent chartering. In addition, the weather conditions and distance the ship undergoes will influence the number of repair services it must have. Not all ship repairs and conversions are carried out in a ship yard; some forms of repair can be performed while the ship is stationary in the water. It should be noted that depending on the type of ship you have and its use, it may require visits to dry docks and other types of marine specialized facilities.

End of Service

The final stage of a ships lifecycle is known as its ‘end of service’. A ship’s life will typically terminate in one of the following ways: in a ship museum, scrapped, as breakwaters or as artificial reefs. As a result of collision, extreme damage or grounding, some ships end up at the bottom of the ocean. The life expectancy of a ship is normally between 20-40 years depending on the quality of the vessel, its use and maintenance.