Book Review - Builder of trust for 150 years

Jan 02 2015

“Celebrating the 150th anniversary of Det Norske Veritas provides an opportunity both to understand and acknowledge our history better and to use a deeper grasp of the past as knowledge and inspiration for our meeting with the future,” said Henrik Madsen, DNV GL group CEO.

He was speaking at the launch of a new book, published to celebrate DNV’s 150 years late last year.

Entitled ‘Building Trust: the History of DNV 1864-2014’, it describes how the organisation has developed from a small Norwegian classification society into the world’s largest society, culminating in the merger with GL in 2013.

The book was written by Norwegian historians Gard Paulsen, Håkon With Andersen, John Peter Collett and Iver Tangen Stensrud and was one of the results of a four-year research project undertaken by the department of historical studies at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

Since 1864, DNV has been a participant in a major social development in Norway through key roles as inspector, consultant and prime mover in the build up of Norwegian shipping to an international scale.

The organisation later acquired a similar role in the evolution of Norway’s oil and offshore technology and eventually in a number of other industries, both nationally and internationally.       

In a broader perspective, DNV has contributed to creating trust between players in shipping and industry, between suppliers and customers and in technology and systems.

Not only is this book a history of one of the world’s most innovative class societies, it is also a history of the shipping and offshore industries themselves, as within its 544, well-illustrated pages, the reader is taken through the complex regulatory and other changes that have occurred since the end of the 19th century, some as a result of accidents/incidents and others by design.

It doesn’t shirk the controversial issues that confronted the industry. For DNV these included various takeover attempts, a dawn raid by the authorities and at times, severe criticism from the Norwegian and international press.

It is clear when reading this book how some of the industry changing events, which took place down the year, led to the class society taking a very active stance on building trust, as its title suggests.

By issuing certificates, conducting inspections, defining norms and setting standards in a number of areas, the society has facilitated trade and transport, made agreements possible between geographically separated parties, influenced marine insurance and financing and regulated aspects of maritime technology. In particular, DNV has contributed to strengthening quality and safety in the shipping industry and subsequently in the far more demanding oil and offshore sector., the class society claimed.

The book also covers the development of risk management, which became a speciality and a pre-condition for technological development in society.

Little attention had been paid to trust and trust-building mechanisms as pre-conditions and essential infrastructure for an increasingly globalised society, DNV said. Its history should make an important contribution to a necessary sociological discussion with both political and economic aspects.

‘Building Trust’ contributes to an academic understanding of how these mechanisms have emerged, how they have evolved over time, what they have embraced, what authority they have operated with and what forms of knowledge and relationships have been required for this, DNV claimed. 

In the final section of the book, a separate chapter is devoted to the merger with Germanischer Lloyd to form DNV GL. It concludes with a broad overview of DNV’s history, which maps out developments from the first register of ships published by the society in 1865 to its many different assignments and services today. 

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