IMO Number and Its importance in case of Buyers Credit

What is IMO Number ?

The IMO ship identification number is made of the three letters “IMO” followed by the seven-digit number assigned to all ships by IHS Fairplay when constructed. This is a unique seven digit number that is assigned to propelled, sea-going merchant ships of 100 gross tons and above. It serves the purpose of identifying ships. It is a Unique number which does not change, even if when the ship’s owner, country of registry or name changes.

What is the Use of IMO Number ?

Banks are using Lloyd’s Register for checking ship details using IMO Number. Details such as owners of the ship till date, current owners, which countries flag this ship had used and  is currently using etc.

Purpose of doing this is to comply with US government sanctions on various countries under OFAC and other laws. IMO check is done at the time of every transaction, to avoid any violation of these laws.

Many buyers credit funding are done through US-based bank branches (quoting specifically US, others might also be using it), they check for IMO number of the vessel before buyers credit funding.

Issues which can arise in case of Buyers Credit

  1. Bank may refuse to fund the buyers credit transaction in case there is no IMO number available of the shipping vessel.
  2. In case of MultiModal Bill of Lading (B/L), there are more than one ship used either on international water or incase of part on international water and part on exporter’s country. Banks calls for all vessel name and BL details used during the transport of the goods, which is then further checked with Lloyd’s Register. In most of the cases ship moving on inland water of the country do not have IMO number, but some registration number given by local body of that country. In such a given case, funding will not happen.
  • Example: In one of such cases, which I had come across, goods were shipped from China to India. Part of shipment from exporter’s place to port was handled by local transport ship which did not have IMO number. An Indian Bank’s overseas branch in U.S. had refused to fund such transaction.


At the time of entering into a contract with exporters, it can be clearly specified that transport document should be either an Ocean B/L or incase of Multimodal B/L, goods to be shipped with an IMO number.


IMO Search by Vessel Name

One thought on “IMO Number and Its importance in case of Buyers Credit”

  1. Hello Sanjay, this requirement of IMO number on a letter of credit and subsequently bill of lading doesn’t seem to be documented in the UCP600.. If it is not part of UCP600, then can the shipper refuse the banks request for IMO number based on the fact that UCP600 doesn’t highlight this as a mandatory requirement..

    If for some reason I am wrong about below, can you please advise on which page of UCP600, this info is available, thanks..

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