For current data, a growing amount of data on current ships is available on the world wide web. Although subscribing is necessary to access some sites with detailed information, the Equasis [www.equasis.org] site is free. Funded by various governments, Equasis aims to make quality and safety-related data on the world`s ships publicly available.
The data on each ship is limited to name, year built, gross tonnage, call sign, International Maritime Organisation number, type, flag, owner and manager. As part of its aim of reducing substandard shipping, Equasis also gives data about port inspections for safety purposes.
For historic data, there is also a growing number of web sites covering aspects of shipping history - too many to list here. A worthwhile forum is MARHIST [address], which is an e-mail list for discussing maritime history and answering queries.