DNV Celebrates 125 Years in the U.S.

DNV Celebrates 125 Years Working in the U.S.

In 1898 DNV, a young Norwegian Classification Society, set up shop in the United States. Today the maritime industry and the classification society have grown and evolved mightily, as Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, CEO Maritime, DNV, discusses his organizations rich history and promising future in the U.S.

By Greg Trauthwein

Image courtesy DNV
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The United States maritime landscape has changed exponentially in the past 125 years, so much so that it could be argued the only common denominator that remains is the water on which ships and boats sail. But through it all, classification society DNV has been present, this year celebrating its 125th anniversary serving the classification needs of a country that counts on its waterways to facilitate nearly 30 million jobs and $5.4 trillion in economic activity annually.

Image courtesy DNV
We are all about safety, taking care of the seafarers, taking care of the workers at the drilling rigs, and making sure that the tourists on cruise vessels are safe. Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, CEO Maritime, DNV

Challenges & Opportunities

While that first DNV employee working the east coast of the U.S. had plenty of challenges, premised on the communication and travel hurdles of the time, the hurdles today in promoting and growing its presence remain, despite the plethora of modern tools available.

“There are many opportunities and challenges facing the industry, stemming from both political shocks and unpredictable markets,” said Ørbeck-Nilssen. “But then we also have regulatory challenges and the emerging ESG revolution that is demanding a lot of transparency and improvements from ship operations. A third point is centered around technologies: digitalization, cyber security and energy efficiency, too.”

To leap or circumvent the hurdles ahead, Ørbeck-Nilssen stresses time and again the need for true collaboration … collaboration of not only like-minded companies within the sector, but organizations and entities outside of maritime that can look at today’s challenges from a different vantage point. “We, as an industry, have to reach beyond our borders,” said Ørbeck-Nilssen. “For instance, let’s take the challenge of future fuels. This is largely provided by organizations and entities and even nations that are not that closely linked to the maritime industry. [We, as an industry] really need to branch out and make new relationships. The fuels of the future will not come from within this industry.”

Image courtesy DNV

Looking Back …

DNV set up shop in the U.S. in 1898, literally a one-man-band to cover the entire east coast, the region that dominated the maritime sector. “DNV has always been about following our customers,” said Ørbeck-Nilssen, noting the increasing amount of maritime trade to and from the U.S. during the period. From humble beginnings the classification presence grew, and today DNV has approximately 2,000 employees in the U.S. alone.

While there have been countless highlights along the way, Ørbeck-Nilssen choose two – the birth and evolution of cruise shipping and the increased safety of the offshore energy business in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster – to discuss.

“One [accomplishment] is the establishment of the cruise industry, basically out of Miami,” said Ørbeck-Nilssen. “As you know, this was more or less worked out from a Norwegian heritage, and it was taken to the U.S., where it has been professionalized and industrialized. [Its development in the U.S.] was a major step in bringing tourism onto vessels, combining these two industries in a creative way.”

“The second [event that had] significant impact was the Macondo incident,” said Ørbeck-Nilssen. “Deepwater Horizon, the well that was uncontrollable, [provided] significant learning for the entire drilling, oil and gas, and maritime industries. The industry came together to work on regulations, to work on improving the rules and the standards. I thought that was a really impressive collective effort spanning across authorities and private enterprises and classification societies like DNV.”

Through all of the years, accomplishments and technical issues addressed, Ørbeck-Nilssen said the DNV mantra all boils down to one common denominator: safety.

“We are all about safety, taking care of the seafarers, taking care of the workers at the drilling rigs, and making sure that the tourists on cruise vessels are safe,” said Ørbeck-Nilssen. This latter point was stressed during COVID, when the world’s cruise shipping industry was effectively shut down. In the early days of the pandemic, DNV was able to tap the medical competence in its organization to create an infection prevention certification scheme that allowed the cruise ships to get an early start when the no sailing instruction was lifted.

Image courtesy DNV

… Planning Ahead

Despite the success of its operations globally, DNV does not rest on its laurels, and in fact has become a thought leader across many critical technical areas in motion today.

“What we do on the Maritime Forecast is so important,” said Ørbeck-Nilssen. “Nobody can see what the future will bring, but we try to bring some visibility into the different options that exists. And I think for us to share that experience with the North American shipping cluster is really important.”

Looking ahead, Ørbeck-Nilssen and his DNV maritime team know that the number and size of challenges will only continue to grow, particularly in regards to the ESG revolution and cyber resilience. In step, DNV will evolve, too, specifically with the launch of “Emissions Connect” in Q2 2023 to add insight and analysis for ESG matters.

“It will help all the stakeholders to get a grip on their emissions, not only on a yearly basis, but also per leg, per journey, per vessel and per fleet,” said Ørbeck-Nilssen.

On the cyber front DNV is well-versed, having recently weathered a cyber attack of its own.

“In a world where geopolitical tensions are increasing and we are getting more reliant on digital tools, cybersecurity and resilience is really important,” he said. “It’s about how you can make sure that you can withstand such an attack, whether it's ransomware or phishing, being resilient and continue operations without damage.”

March 2023