The weight of glass fiber reinforced polymer composite (GFRP) plate is about one fourth of the steel plate and can be used in ship and offshore structures, so that the payload can be increased. However comparative studies on the behaviour of steel and GFRP composite plates with square opening have not been studied in detail. The experimental studies on steel and GFRP plates with and without openings are carried out for the combined loading of axial compression and out-of-plane loads. The in-plane and out-of-plane deflections are measured. The reduction in the axial load carrying capacity of the plates due to out-of-plane load is quantified. The effect of column slenderness ratio and plate slenderness ratio on the collapse load of simply supported stiffened plates is presented. Two sets of interaction equations are developed, one for the steel plate and another for the GFRP composite plate. © 2010 by ASME.