Mechanical engineer Till Braun of Germanischer Lloyd is passionate about precision. "If I was building a boat, any boat, I would want to have a classification society involved," he says.
Till, Project Manager for the society’s Diesel Engines and Emissions Department, is charged with certifying that engines meet the Rules for Diesel Engines of GL. The IMO air quality requirements, known as Marpol Annex VI, are also handled by this department headed by Claus Hadler. But as one of 700 employees at the Germanischer Lloyd head office in Hamburg, he can be part of one of the teams that are called together to oversee the construction of a particular vessel. "Fit" is an important concept in engineering and it is this idea that the firm claims in its statement "Precise, reliable and as regular as clockwork – how your ship should run." These are fine words but a classification society aims to deliver just that.
A vessel that is being built to class, will require all components to meet national and internationally established criterion. The first step in this process requires that the theoretical plan for the vessel be submitted to the head office in Hamburg. Here a team can be put together to examine each aspect of the proposed vessel within a range of expertise from structural to mechanical. The particular class requirements of the owner, such as inland, coastal, coastal 50 or coastal 200 or all seas, are considered in the total design of the vessel. While the society has offices throughout the world, it retains the coordinated approval process in Germany in order to guarantee consistency of standards for its clients.
The client base is as diverse as the marine world. From cargo vessels on Germany’s inland rivers to ocean going tankers and mega yachts. Each type of vessel has its specialists at the head office, but Germanischer Lloyd claims world leadership in the classing of container ships with 31.2 percent by tonnage (34.6 percent by number of ships) of the world fleet of existing vessels and fully 48.4 percent by tonnage (55.6 percent by number of ships) of new builds being
classed with Germanischer Lloyd. The society also claims significant expertise in the passenger vessels and references such recent new builds as Europa, SY Sea Cloud II, Deutchland, AIDAvita, and Sun Bay. Each type of ship has particular challenges and the society has individuals specializing accordingly. Tankers need consideration for their high risk cargo and understanding of double hull construction while bulkers experience brutal every day demands, stress and strain. High speed vessels, both work and pleasure are a specialty of society naval architect Karsten Fach, Head of Plan Approval High Speed Craft
, Inland Waterways Vessels, Yachts and Boats. The relation and balance between lightweight materials and wave forces can be crucial in this these craft.
When a vessel is being built to class, Germanischer Lloyd works with three equal sets of documentation. One for the submitting yard or equipment supplier (such as the engine manufacturer), one for the local GL inspection office in charge of the component or ship’s certification, and a third to be stored in the company archives so long as the ship is in operation. The archives, located under the floor of the head office’s grand foyer near the Hamburg water front, are themselves a statement of quality control. There are documents for over 5100 active vessels stored in the vault. Each set of documents is color coded and stored on movable shelving that allows maximum use of space. The fortress-like area is fire proofed and, because the Elbe River across the street has been known to flood, it is protected by watertight doors.
A current slogan of the society is "Operating 24/7". It is their assurance to clients that the centralized control of German quality will be maintained throughout the world as well as in any of the more than 140 inspection offices around the world. The society has more than 1800 people world wide. Of that number over 1000 are engineers. Till Braun points out that the cost of having a vessel built to class is typically 0.5% to 1% of the vessel’s total cost. "For that amount it is worth having even the smallest fishing boat built to class," he maintains, "That way the owners can comfortably go on holidays while their boat is being built under supervison and according to the highest level shipbuilding standards — with Class GL."