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Tor Svensen offers parting thoughts on role of class

Tor Svensen offers parting thoughts on role of class
Always one of the industry’s most articulate leaders, DNV GL executive vp Tor Svensen took the opportunity to reflect upon the role of classification societies past and present during a press event held in London last week, just days after announcing his imminent retirement.

Svensen started off by observing that the shipping industry had experienced its fourth busiest newbuilding year as recently as 2013, showing that markets had bounced back from the 2008 crisis “quickly but probably for the wrong reasons.”

Structural problems remain to be resolved, he said, with “consolidation needed in maritime, and offshore needing to reduce its costs.” Outstanding indebtedness also still has to be cleared.

In such circumstances “it’s more important than ever that class does its job properly,” continued Svensen, and “cannot take short cuts” which could jeopardise safety.

In fact, maritime classification currently functions as a “very efficient system compared to other sectors,” he argued, with a clearly established set of rules, network of global coverage and internationally accepted certification system, thereby avoiding the need for a lot of individual inspections.

But at the same time “class must move with the times,” he urged, and develop new competences for the digital age, for which “long term investment and R&D” is required.  

Controversially Svensen said he felt membership of an expanded IACS (International Association of Classification Societies) was “no longer a guarantee of quality as it was before,” and that “performance of an individual class society is more important than IACS membership.”

And equally provocative were his closing remarks that class societies “should not hide behind some charitable status” but be totally transparent about their earnings and the taxes that they pay. Otherwise “commercial pressures can undermine their role in the long term,” Svensen warned.