However, a few years ago, the class society decided to expands its horizons by opening offices outside Japan, buying companies and marketing its services to owners with vessels classed by other societies.
These moves have met with some success as ClassNK now claims to be the fastest growing class society. “Our success has been defined by continuous, organic growth as a result of our global expansion and commitment to service,” Yasushi Nakamura, ClassNK executive vice president said at a recent presentation in London.
Over the past five years, the ClassNK register has grown by more than 1,000 vessels and 50 mill gt to 8,666 vessels, totalling more than 225 mill gt. The register continues to grow by roughly 1 mill gt per month, the class society claimed.
Today, ClassNK claimed around 20-21% market share and aims to reach 25%, which it considered was a stable base with which to work.
Much of this growth has been driven by an increase in the transfers of vessels from other class societies to the NK register, which has more than tripled since 2010. Today, transfers account for nearly one third of all vessels added to the register.
ClassNK reinvests a large portion of its revenue each year into maritime research and development. For example, last year, ClassNK invested more than $50 mill in maritime R&D, just under 20% of the annual turnover.
Founded in 2009, the ClassNK Joint R&D for Industry Programme, which was formed to support R&D projects carried out with industry partners to address key industry challenges, has grown to become the class society’s largest R&D item. To date, more than 250 R&D projects have been carried as part of this programme worldwide.
Today, about half of ClassNK’s total of 1,600 plus employees are non-Japanese. About 72% are naval architects, or marine engineers and 67% are employed as ship surveyors, or auditors. There are only five executives, made up of the Chairman and four executive vice presidents.
Nakamura explained that the small number of executives streamlined the decision making process, while a large degree of autonomy is given to individual offices and subsidiary companies.
There are now around 130 offices worldwide and this figure is growing by four to five offices per year. One of the latest is in Hamburg, Germany as Nakamura explained that it was thought that there was a void left by the merger of DNV and GL.
Tankers are being targeted and at present ClassNK lies in second place behind DNV GL in classing oil, chemical and gas tankers with 18% of the market. For example in June, the LR2 Al Dasma was delivered by DSME to Kuwait Oil Tanker Co (KOTC).
She was built under ClassNK rules and regulations. During the construction, the class society provided extensive professional and technical services for the successful completion of the vessel, it said.
More recently, ClassNK and Transas Marine have signed a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the classification of maritime simulators.
According to the agreement, ClassNK and Transas will jointly develop new standards, rules, procedures and guidelines related to simulator classification. New requirements will address the need for improved quality of both traditional and specialist areas of training, such as offshore, LNG, tug and VTS operations.
Software companies acquisitions are high on ClassNK’s agenda, illustrated by the purchase of Victoria, BC- based Helm Operations.
Founded in 1999, Helm Operations has grown to become a major provider of manning, maintenance, dispatch, and HSQE software to the workboat and offshore industries.
Nakamura said of the acquisition: "At ClassNK our mission has always been to ensure that global innovation is put to use for the benefit of the entire maritime industry.
Commencing with the acquisition of NAPA earlier this year, and the acquisition of Helm now, we are bringing together a team of leading software companies from around the world in order to help achieve that goal.”
The acquisition of Finnish software concern NAPA was announced in March.
ClassNK said that it had worked with NAPA for nearly 10 years and this acquisition gave the class society an opportunity to expand and improve the wide range of services it offers to shipowners and shipyards, while also providing NAPA with the support to accelerate expansion of existing operations and access new markets.
NAPA’s software is utilised by shipyards, which are designing over 90% of the world’s newbuildings and is also used by major shipowners. The company said that the deal was a reflection of the growing importance of software technology in improving ship design and operational efficiency.