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.
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.