Its creation was a response to an emerging, nationwide market for marine insurance at a time when the Norwegian shipping industry was experiencing rapid growth and breaking out of its previous local confinement.
In Hamburg, three years later in 1867, a group of 600 ship owners, shipbuilders and insurers met in the great hall of the Hamburg Stock Exchange on the occasion of the founding convention of Germanischer Lloyd. The new society was founded as a non-profit association based in Hamburg.
The reason for forming a German classification society was to achieve transparency. Merchants, ship owners, and insurers often received little information about the state of a ship. As an independent classification society, Germanischer Lloyd was created to evaluate the quality of ships and deliver the results to ship owners, merchants, and insurers.
GL’s first international ship classification register from 1868 reports 273 classed ships, with ten times this number entering class by 1877. As a consequence, the surveyor network extended rapidly.
The DNV fleet also increased rapidly, and agents, and later permanent surveyors, were appointed in a number of countries to serve Norwegian vessels abroad. Steamships were introduced in the 1870’s, dramatically changing the classification business and the work and competence required of surveyors.
Society became an increasingly demanding stakeholder in a dominantly liberal and private industry. Samuel Plimsoll is famous for his initiative to save the lives of seamen along the British coasts, leading to compulsory load lines on every British ship starting in 1891. Load lines first became compulsory in Norway in 1907.
Following the Titanic disaster in 1912, safety at sea became the subject of increasing public concern, and international classification societies played an important part in discussions on ship safety. The managing director of GL, Carl Pagel, and Johannes Bruun from DNV, were the only official delegates from the classification industry at the meeting where the first International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) was adopted.
Examples of cooperation between GL and DNV were many. The first initiative can be found in records from the DNV Council as far back as September of 1868. At that time, the item on the agenda was to create a common class register for DNV and GL. These discussions were ultimately unsuccessful, as was the case when mutual recognition of certificates and a common ship register were discussed in 1891.
For GL, the First World War was a severe setback. International relationships were severed and foreign-flagged ships changed class. The inter-war period represented improvement and new growth until the Second World War took its toll. Following the war, Germany’s economic recovery led to rapid improvement and growth for GL.
After the First World War, the transition from sailing ships to steamers was complete, and there was a fundamental change in technology and skills needed for the classification industry. The rules were too old and were no longer in harmony with modern shipbuilding methods of the time. Between 1920 and 1940, DNV was technically independent, and a new culture was established, giving priority to engineering, construction and design. Then came the hardships of the Second World War, and DNV was almost split as an organization.
Georg Vedeler, appointed managing director of DNV in 1951, introduced a scientific approach to ship construction. His vision was to build safer ships in a more efficient way, introducing scientific competencies and skills into the organization. New rules based on an analytical and theoretical scientific approach were introduced, and a significant step was also taken to establish a dedicated research department. This provided opportunities for DNV in the more demanding segments of shipbuilding, initially represented by the new super tankers and later followed by gas – and chemical tankers. The fleet was still predominantly Norwegian, but internationalization was taking off.
GL also took a scientific approach while developing the organization after the Second World War – later introducing high-powered computer analysis, enabling the design and construction of larger and more modern ships. GL invested in research that resulted in new construction rules for container ships, leading to dominance in this segment within international shipping.
From the perspective of competence and impact, DNV was well prepared when commercial oil was found in the North Sea. The firm came to play an important role in this new industry within Norway as an advisor for both authorities and oil companies. Verification, inspection and risk management services were developed and introduced based on DNV’s experience and technological competence within the maritime industry.
The world’s first pipeline rules were published by DNV in 1976, setting a world standard. Starting in the early 1970’s, DNV was offered most of the building supervision and inspection assignments on the Norwegian continental shelf. Offshore floating rigs and supply vessels also became a new and strong segment for DNV in traditional ship classification.
At the beginning of the 1970’s, offshore technology also became an important field of activity for Germanischer Lloyd, initially working on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Research and Technology. Many other offshore technology projects followed, but as opposed to DNV, GL lacked the support of a strong home market in this segment.
In 1977, wind energy was introduced as a new business segment. For both GL and DNV, this and other climate-friendly service areas represented new opportunities for organizational growth based on a strong and research-driven technology base. New rules were developed, and certification of land-based and offshore windmills became an important growth area for DNV. Despite periods of setbacks and decline in shipping and oil, both DNV and GL were able to focus on growth and internationalization as the twentieth century came to a close.
In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the new industry of management system certification based on ISO-standards emerged, and both DNV and GL took global positions in the expanding CIT industry.
Alliances, mergers, and acquisitions became a strong strategic driver for both GL and DNV. The acquisitions of Advantica (UK) in 2008 and Trident (Malaysia) in 2009 broadened GL’s service scope to consultancy services in the oil and gas sectors. The merger with Noble Denton in 2009 further expanded its activities in offshore technical services. This was supported by the acquisitions of PVI (Canada) in 2007, MCS (US) in 2008 and IRS (Singapore) in 2009, which advanced the inspection business.
In 2005, DNV acquired CCT (US), a specialist in corrosion control and pipeline and plant integrity analyses, and followed this with the acquisitions of Global Energy Concepts (US) in 2008 and US-based Behnke, Erdman and Whitaker (BEW) in 2010. To support prevailing strategies within the new climate-friendly service fields, DNV established its Sustainability Centre in Beijing in 2009 and a Clean Technology Centre in Singapore in 2010.
Strategically adapting to the challenges of climate change, and following the development of the Kyoto Protocol agreement, DNV was accredited by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change for its clean development mechanism (CDM) in 2005. By 2006, DNV had approximately 50 per cent of the global market for emission reductions verification.
In 2012, DNV and KEMA joined forces to create a world-leading consulting, testing and certification company for the global energy sector. This company has found its home within the important and future¬-oriented business area, energy, of the DNV GL Group. KEMA was established by the Dutch electrical power industry in 1927 and was subsequently developed into a high profile international brand that provided services to the global energy sector, including renewable energy, carbon reduction and energy efficiency, power generation, transmission and distribution.
The newly formed DNV GL Group became operational on September 12, 2013 after a long courtship that included numerous relationship-building advances and discussions about co-operation and mergers that took place in 1986, 2000 and again in 2006. Changes in ownership and strategic alignment between the two companies and their leadership provided new opportunities, and the merger was finally successful. The DNV GL Group comprises approximately 16,000 employees operating in over 100 countries.
Today DNV GL is well positioned as a global player within the maritime, oil and gas, and energy industries as well as food and health care to meet new challenges while balancing the needs of business and society.