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The common history of DNV GL goes back to 1864

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Skibsregister 1912 Image
DNV GL’s shared roots stretch back to 1864, when Det Norske Veritas (DNV) was founded as a membership organisation in Oslo. Norway’s mutual marine insurance clubs banded together to establish a uniform set of rules and procedures, used in assessing the risk of underwriting individual vessels. The group aimed to provide “reliable and uniform classification and taxation of Norwegian ships”.

At the time, the Norwegian shipping industry was experiencing rapid growth and breaking out of its traditional local boundaries. An emerging, nationwide market for marine insurance was needed. Three years later in Germany, a group of 600 ship owners, shipbuilders and insurers gathered in the great hall of the Hamburg Stock Exchange. It was the founding convention of Germanischer Lloyd (GL), a new non-profit association based in Hamburg. 

GL was formed out of a desire to achieve transparency. Merchants, ship owners and insurers often received little information about the state of a ship. As an independent classification society, GL was created to evaluate the quality of ships and deliver the results to stakeholders. GL’s first international ship classification register from 1868 reports 273 classed ships. By 1877, the number had grown tenfold. The surveyor network extended rapidly as a result. 

The DNV fleet also grew rapidly. First agents, then permanent surveyors were appointed in a number of countries to serve Norwegian vessels abroad. Steamships were introduced in the 1870s, dramatically changing the classification business and the work and competence required of surveyors. 

GL and DNV began collaborating from the very beginning. DNV Council records from September 1868 list plans to create a common class register for the two organisations. These discussions were ultimately unsuccessful, as were similar talks in 1891 over the mutual recognition of certificates and a common ship register.

Social drivers
Society became an increasingly demanding stakeholder in the predominantly private, liberal industry. Load lines developed by Samuel Plimsoll became compulsory on every British ship from 1891, saving the lives of seamen along the British coasts. Load lines became mandatory in Norway in 1907. 

The Titanic disaster in 1912 brought safety at sea to the forefront of public concern. International classification societies played an important part in discussions on ship safety. Nevertheless, GL’s managing director Carl Pagel and Johannes Bruun from DNV were the only official classification industry delegates at the adoption of the first International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). 

The cost of war
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. Germany’s economic recovery following WWII led to rapid improvement and growth for GL. 

After WWI, the transition from sailing ships to steamers brought a fundamental change in technology and skills needed for the classification industry. The outdated rules were no longer in harmony with the shipbuilding methods of the time. Between 1920 and 1940 DNV was technically independent, and established a new culture prioritizing engineering, construction and design. Then came the hardships of WWII, and DNV was almost split as an organization.

Hamburg harbour image
Hamburg, Germany
Ship in sea image

New vision
When Georg Vedeler was appointed DNV’s managing director in 1951, he introduced a more scientific approach to ship construction. His vision was to build safer ships in a more efficient way, using scientific competencies and skills. New rules based on an analytical and theoretical scientific approach were introduced, and a significant step was taken towards establishing a dedicated research department. This provided opportunities for DNV in the more demanding segments of shipbuilding, which initially involved the new super tankers and later extended to gas and chemical tankers. The fleet was still predominantly Norwegian, but internationalization was taking off.

GL also took a scientific approach in developing the organization after WWII. This led to the introduction of high-powered computer analysis, enabling the design and construction of larger and more modern ships. GL’s research investments resulted in new construction rules for container ships, and the company soon dominated this segment within international shipping. 


North Sea oil boom
DNV was well prepared in terms of competence and impact when commercial oil was discovered 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. DNV used its experience and technological competence within the maritime industry to develop and introduce oil and gas verification, inspection and risk management services.

The world’s first pipeline rules were published by DNV in 1976, setting a global standard. From 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 strong new segment for DNV in traditional ship classification.

Offshore technology also became an important field of activity for GL at the start of the 1970s, on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Research and Technology. Many other offshore technology projects followed, but unlike DNV, GL lacked the support of a strong home market in this segment.

Emerging industries
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 from a strong, 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 declines 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 1980s and early 1990s the new industry of management system certification based on ISO-standards emerged, and both DNV and GL took global positions in the expanding TIC industry.

Age of alliances
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 analysis. It followed up 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.

Safer, Smarter, Greener
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. KEMA was established by the Dutch electrical power industry in 1927, and had subsequently developed into a high profile international brand that provided services to the global energy sector. These included renewable energy, carbon reduction and energy efficiency, power generation, transmission and distribution. 

The newly formed DNV GL Group became operational on September 12, 2013. It followed a long courtship which included numerous relationship-building advances and discussions about co-operation and mergers 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.