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This paper evaluates the potentialities of polarimetric ship scattering for basing classification methods that provide reasonable performance within cluttered scenes. Both simulated and airborne polarimetric synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images have been used to validate the conclusions of a previous phenomenological study. Numerical simulations have been carried out with GRECOSAR, a polarimetric interferometric SAR simulation tool that is able to process highly complex targets with a fast and accurate radar-cross-section prediction module. A representative set of scenarios has been defined, which includes various realistic ship models, sea states, and imaging geometries. In all of them, a two-scale sea surface model precisely accounting for sea-ship interaction and sea clutter has been added. The analysis of different images has shown that, with an adequate spatial resolution, ships may be characterized by a particular spatial arrangement and polarization state distribution of dominant scattering centers. This feature has allowed one to propose a new classification algorithm, which shows a promising behavior after various preliminary tests. In this paper, the performance of this technique is further evaluated with realistic clutter. The results show that robust classification is possible even in highly cluttered scenes if quad-pol imagery is available. On the contrary, in low clutter conditions, the usage of less restrictive solutions, like circular dual-pol schemes, is feasible and may still get an acceptable performance.