Towards international recognition

In 2010, the Executive Council of the International Congress of Maritime Museums (ICMM) began a discussion on the desirability of formulating broad international guidelines and policies to assist decision making concerning heritage vessels, whether in museum, corporate or private ownership.

Increasingly, restrictive legislation and regulation around the world is a threat faced by all those involved in operating, preserving, maintaining or restoring traditional and historic vessels. To date, ship owners have mostly dealt with the threats on a local or regional basis. But a review worldwide of the types of regulation imposed on ship owners demonstrates that there are many similarities, and an international approach to dealing with the regulatory regimes may be advantageous. Our collective knowledge may be our greatest strength.

In 2010, there was no one organisation in the heritage vessel world which had sufficient international standing to act as an advisor to governments and marine authorities and which could speak with a sufficiently professional and knowledgeable voice to be listened to around the world.

It was ICMM’s belief that it could act as the instigator in creating an expert international grouping to fill that role.

At its Executive Council meeting in March 2011, ICMM agreed to the establishment of an expert international panel - with regional panels involving local experts - to represent historic and traditional vessels whether in museum, corporate or private ownership.

The inaugural meeting of the panel - with the name 'International Historic & Traditional Ships Panel' (IHTS) - met at the Maritime Museum, Rotterdam, the Netherlands in 2011, attended by sixteen delegates representing ICMM member museums from Europe, the USA and Australia; European Maritime Heritage (EMH); Sail Training International (STI), National Historic Ships UK; World Ship Trust and Register Holland.

At the inaugural Rotterdam 2011 Panel meeting, the aims of IHTS were established:

1: Recognise that the challenges faced by historic & traditional shipowners whether operational or static are not unique to any one country or region – they are common worldwide.

2: Agree that there is merit in establishing an international collaborative partnership, recognised by governments and regulators, to co-ordinate professional standards and practices for historic & traditional ships in order to respond to increasing regulation.

3: Take account of national and regional variations and such things as different vessel types and propulsion methods and uses; all affecting design, construction and regulatory regimes.

4: Work with historic & traditional ships whether in commercial operation, or in a museum environment where they may be operational, or presented as static exhibits afloat or ashore.

IHTS Panel Mission & Objectives

Hosted by the ss Great Britain Trust, in Bristol, UK, the second meeting of the IHTS Panel set down the mission statement and objectives of IHTS:

Mission Statement

The International Historic & Traditional Ships Panel (IHTS) aspires to advocate the role of historic and traditional vessels in maritime heritage by promoting their continuing use, their conservation and their interpretation, for the public benefit.



• Identify sources worldwide of information about historic and traditional vessels

• Evaluate and monitor the national and international guidelines and policies governing historic & traditional vessels

• Collate and disseminate guidelines promoting best practice for such vessels

• Serve as a resource for those who own, manage and regulate such vessels

• Advocate for the understanding of historic and traditional vessels as heritage assets requiring special regulatory recognition

Go to 'IHTS Updates' and 'Project Reports' for more information about the work of IHTS and to download a report of the 2012 Bristol meeting.


The IHTS Panel met in February 2013 at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich UK.

The most recent meeting of the IHTS Panel was in Cascais, Portugal in September 2013, immediately prior to the 2013 ICMM Congress.

An update on work in progress by IHTS and the program ahead is being prepared and will be posted to the website.