Founded in Antwerp in 1828, in what is today Belgium, the Information Office for Maritime Insurance had a simple mission: to give shipping underwriters up-to-date information on premiums in use at commercial centers and provide precise information on the state of ships and equipment.
In 1829, the company was renamed Bureau Veritas, adopted the emblem of Truth as its official logo and published its first Register of some 10,000 ships. In 1833 the head office transferred from Antwerp to Paris, where a branch office was set up in 1830.
… Where we're going
What have we created since then?
The birth of the company, 1828
In the winter of 1821, violent storms raged across Europe causing some 2,000 shipwrecks and 20,000 deaths. The situation was disastrous for insurance companies. Most of them went bankrupt, and for those that survived the competition in coming years from newcomers in the market was particularly fierce. It was during this critical period that two underwriters, Alexandre Delehaye and Louis van den Broek, and an insurance broker, Auguste Morel, established the Bureau de Renseignements pour les Assurances Maritimes (Information Office for Maritime Insurance).
Founded in Antwerp (Belgium) in June 1828, the company had a simple mission: to keep underwriters up to date with the various premiums in use at different commercial centers and to provide all the necessary information for determining the level of confidence in ships and equipment.
But what set the company apart from the competition was its new methodology.
As well as indicating the type of navigation a vessel could undertake, a note of risk (3/3, 2/3, 1/3) was ascribed to each vessel. This figure was arrived at by considering a vessel's structural design, quality of materials, strength of scantlings, age, previous accidents, and state of maintenance of hull and rigging.
In 1829, the company was renamed Bureau Veritas, the first Register was published - which included 10,000 ships - and an emblem for Truth was adopted as the company insignia.
The Truth and the testimony
The original insignia of 1829 was designed by Achille Deveria and engraved by Jacques-Jean Barre. It represented the female figure of Truth emerging naked from a well. The founders explained their reasoning in a letter that was distributed with each Register. Their aim was clearly stated: “to seek the truth and tell it without fear or favor.
Reaching a wider audience (1830-1980)
In 1830 a branch office was created in Paris. But by 1833 activity had expanded so much that the head office was transferred to the French capital.
Under new management the rejuvenated company went from strength to strength, as shown by this first testimonial:
"Nothing either in France or overseas can be compared to this manual (the Bureau Veritas Register) in any industrial branch, so absolutely necessary to the insurer and so useful to the maritime commerce in general. We do not understand how this institution does not benefit from the government’s protection and solicitude for we consider it, beyond its usefulness, as being mainly of public interest."
Underwriters' magazine "Revue des Assurances", 1830
The Bureau's presence did not go unnoticed in other fields. The company was quoted in three Jules Verne novels:
- "The Mysterious Island" (1874);
- "The Survivors of the Chancellor" (1875).
… and the name "Bureau Veritas" entered both the French dictionary Larousse and Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913).
Without doubt the best testimony to the vitality of Bureau Veritas was its increasing worldwide expansion - first throughout Europe, then to the Americas and finally to all the main ports of the other continents.With the expansion of the Industrial Revolution, Bureau Veritas broadened its range of services. The introduction of iron and steel into ship building had made materials inspection at production sites crucial. In 1910 a new service was created, "Control of Materials". Its purpose was to examine all the materials used in everything from industrial equipment, to diesel motors, locomotives and the like, as well as the very factories themselves.
Then in 1922, the French government entrusted Bureau Veritas with the official control of airworthiness certificates for civil aircraft. (The company's substantial experience acquired in the maritime field had already proved most valuable.) The new Aeronautical Service established thorough procedures based on regular surveys with reference to specific rules. Similarly, requests from insurance companies for regular technical surveys of buses, coaches and trucks in France led to the creation of the Automobile Service in 1927.
With the increasing number of accidents during the construction boom that followed the First World War, insurers realized they could no longer cover the risks unless there were pre-existing controls in place. Again Bureau Veritas responded to the market, and in 1929 it established the "Control Service for Buildings & Civil Engineering".
By 1932 Bureau Veritas had established its own laboratories at Levallois-Perret near Paris for metallurgical and chemical analysis, and the testing of building materials.
Expanding entrepreneurship, 1980-1990
Between 1980 and 1990 Bureau Veritas set up a number of new subsidiaries in response to specific needs.
Bivac - In 1984 the government of Nigeria approached Bureau Veritas to deliver pre-shipment inspection of imports. It was a brand new business venture for the company, and one that it would quickly master and take to other countries. A global network was soon established to work with governments across the globe.
BVQI - Now Bureau Veritas Certification - By 1988, quality imperatives and ISO certification had become key issues for many companies. With the growing need for independent third party systems certification, Bureau Veritas was in a strong position to respond.Veritas Auto - 1990 saw the creation of a major subsidiary to handle the regular inspection of motor vehicles. This activity was ceded a few years later.
Strategic vision and acquisitions, 1990-2010
The Asian economic boom and the emergence of strong economies in Russia and Eastern Europe were transforming the market. Moreover, in Europe and North America, a growing focus on quality, health, safety and environmental issues arrived hand in hand with a proliferation of new regulations. Fast developing countries started aligning their regulations with those in the USA and Europe.
Standards began to move up the supply chain as developed economies demanded that their suppliers in other parts of the world comply to the same norms.
In this challenging environment, Bureau Veritas established a set of priorities based on external growth that helped strengthen its position in the more mature economies.
- 1996 was an important year with a significant merger in France: Bureau Veritas acquired CEP and became the French leader in conformity assessment of building construction.
- Shortly after, Bureau Veritas added a new core competence to its portfolio: Consumer Products Testing, by the acquisition of two well-established US firms with testing labs in Asia (ACTS and MTL).
- Between 2003 and 2007, via several acquisitions, the Group strengthened its services and presence in the fields of QHSE, construction and asset management, certification and in-service inspection in the US (acquisitions of Berryman & Henigar, Graham Marcus, Linhart Petersen Powers Associates, OneCis, OneBeacon, Clayton and NATLSCO), in the UK (Weeks and Casella), in Australia (Kilpatrick, Intico and IRC) and in Spain (ECA).
On October 24, 2007, Bureau Veritas became listed on the Paris Stock Exchange.
The acquisition of Inspectorate in 2010 positioned Bureau Veritas among the top three global leaders within the commodities market. This strategic acquisition allowed the group to penetrate the oil and petrochemicals segment. It also extended its upstream position in mineral exploration and production related services to downstream services, particularly in international transport and trade.
Thanks to the addition of all these fields of activities between 1990 and 2010, Bureau Veritas offers its clients the widest range of services available in the testing, inspection and certification industry.
Building solid growth platforms, 2010 onwards
In the past few years, Bureau Veritas has streamlined its organization to enable a better market focus and keep a strong growth momentum. The Group is now structured along 8 global businesses :
- Inspection and In-Service Verification
- Consumer Product Services
- Government Services and International Trade
Bureau Veritas has achieved a strong competitive edge in its 8 global businesses, with:
- Worldwide leadership positions in each one of these businesses.
- The ability to leverage an efficient and dense international network.
- An in-depth technical expertise recognized by relevant authorities and accreditation bodies.
Leading the way
Strong organic growth and more than 100 acquisitions in the past 20 years have pushed us into a leadership position on our market and given us a broad and unrivalled expertise in QHSE management issues.
Now we would like to share this expertise with you.
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