The role of the industry in promoting quality and safety in marine transport was at the heart of the Quality Shipping Campaign, launched by the European Commission and the UK Government in November 1997. The Campaign's aim was to bring together all players involved in the various fields of marine business in an effort to improve maritime safety. It was based upon dialogue between all the marine industry and public authorities and its tools were, primarily, voluntary measures. As the Quality Shipping Campaign demonstrated, one of the greatest impediments to a genuine quality culture in shipping is the lack of transparency in the information relating to the quality of ships and their operators.

While much relevant information is collected and available, it is scattered and often difficult to access. One of the main conclusions of the Quality Shipping Conference in Lisbon in June 1998, was an unanimous call from the participants representing the whole range of industry professionals (including ship-owners, cargo owners, insurers, brokers, classification societies, agents, ports and terminals), to make such information more accessible.

In response to this call, the European Commission and the French Maritime Administration decided to cooperate in developing an information system which collates existing safety-related information on ships from both public and private sources, and makes it available on the Internet.

The main principles associated with the set-up of the Equasis information system were as follows:

  • Equasis should be a tool aimed at reducing substandard shipping, and it should be limited to safety-related information on ships;
  • Equasis has no commercial purpose; it addresses a public concern and should act accordingly;
  • Equasis should be an international database covering the whole world fleet;
  • Active co-operation with all players involved in the maritime industry is needed;
  • Equasis will be a tool used for better selection of ships, but it will be used on a voluntary basis and there will be no legal pressure for industry to use it.

The set-up and effective operation of Equasis will help promote the exchange of unbiased information and transparency in maritime transport and thus allow persons involved in maritime transport to be better informed about the performance of ships and maritime organisations with which they are dealing. The Equasis website went live on 17th May 2000.

At the beginning, the two founding members, France and the European Commission, shared the cost of developing and running Equasis. In 2002, the first Equasis "Memorandum of Understanding" (MoU) was signed by a small number of quality-minded Maritime Administrations as a first step towards the progressive incorporation of other administrations with a similar philosophy. Since then, other Maritime Administrations have indeed joined the project. The "members" of the Supervisory Committee are designated by the Maritime Administrations that have signed the Equasis Memorandum of Understanding.

The Supervisory Committee decides and finances the Equasis project, and its composition aims to ensure an appropriate geographical spread. Equasis is therefore financed exclusively by public money and is made available to all users worldwide, free of charge. Those two characteristics are unique in the maritime world, and give Equasis a special role in the marine industry.

At the moment, the members of the Supervisory Committee are as follows:

  • France (founding member)
  • European Commission (founding member), represented by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) since 2003
  • United Kingdom (member since 2002)
  • Japan (member since 2002)
  • United States of America (observer since 2002, member since 2011)
  • Norway (member since 2008)
  • Canada (member since 2009)
  • Republic of Korea (member since 2009)
  • Brazil (member since 2013)
  • Spain (member from 2002-2012, observer from 2013 to 2015, member from 2016)

In the past, Equasis also benefited from the participation of the following maritime authorities:

  • Australia (2005-2009)
  • Singapore (2002-2003)
  • Spain (2002-2012)

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) currently has observer status in Equasis.

The initiators of the Equasis project and the original signatory parties of the first Equasis Memorandum of Understanding in 2002 were the European Commission and the maritime administration of France as well as those of Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom and Japan. The United States of America was also associated to the project with an observer status since the beginning, before signing the MoU in 2011.

This list of members is not closed, and Equasis is still seeking other quality-minded maritime authorities to participate in the Supervisory Committee.

Equasis aims at collecting and disseminating high quality, safety-related information on the world's merchant fleet that has been provided by the holders of such information. Equasis believes that, by providing factual information, its users will be able to build their own opinions on ships and/or companies and act accordingly.

Equasis displays information from public authorities and industry organisations, and the whole list of the present providers is available under the menu tab 'Providers'. Even though data is regularly updated in order to help ensure that information remains as reliable as possible, Equasis does not aim to be, or to become, a "real-time" system. The frequency of updates varies from provider to provider, whereby 80% of the data contained in Equasis is refreshed on a weekly basis. The latest update date is shown in the section "About Equasis > Data update" for each provider.

As a matter of principle, Equasis does not modify the data from its providers before displaying it, and each piece of information displayed in Equasis can be easily traced to a provider. The source of any information in the website can be identified by clicking on the green question marks () next to the data. Special attention has been paid to the accuracy of the data. However, should a user consider that information displayed on the website is outdated or incorrect, he/she can "report an error" which will be considered by the Equasis management team. The data provider will then be informed of the situation and an investigation will be carried out, following which, if appropriate, the data will be corrected as soon as possible.

For clarity and conciseness, when certain information is not available or does not exist for a ship or a company, the corresponding item or table is withdrawn from the page.

The database is subject to continuous improvement, and more information sources will be added as and when appropriate.

Equasis seeks to facilitate access to its data using various devices in order to promote its usage and to cope with other Equasis-related usage scenarios.
To this end, steps have been taken to make Equasis available via other popular communication media (e.g. mobile phones and tablet PCs).

The following Equasis applications targeting these types of devices have been freely available to the public since 2013:

No part of the information contained on the Equasis website may be stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, without prior permission in writing from Equasis.

Equasis does not forward or provide its data to third parties unless prior agreement has been reached with the provider of the transmitted data. Equasis does not provide tailor-made services such as customised lists of ships or companies.

The following actions are strictly forbidden:

  • The reproduction of data contained on the site in any way for commercial purposes.
  • Massive or bulk-downloading of data contained on the site.
  • Use of web-robot or similar technics to download data in an automated and/or regular manner.

The above list is not exhaustive. Equasis continuously monitors the activity on its website, and if misuse is detected, then the user's account can be locked without prior notice.