For anyone whose personal and professional life is tied by double strands to RINA and the Registro, reading this book is a real emotion: the history of our company clearly shows how it is strictly bonded with the development of Italy as a whole, and with the entrepreneurship of our country.
These pages confirm that we – like the colleagues who preceded us – are part of an excellence that in 160 years has never failed to meet customer expectations and its tradition of competence and integrity.
RINA’s roots go far back to 1861 when the Registro, our majority shareholder, was established, at the same time as Italy was born.
As said in this book, in 1999 all operational activities of the Registro passed to RINA S.p.A. and since then the company has gone from being a leader in just one sector to a top player in many other market sectors.
The evolution of the RINA Group would not have been possible without the continuous support of the Registro, which set itself the priority objective of safeguarding the company and supporting its growth.
The capabilities and prestige of Gaspare Ciliberti and Paolo d’Amico, past and current President of the Registro, respectively since 1999 and 2020, have played a decisive role in the success of the company today.
Despite its ultra-centennial roots, RINA is really a young company that, unlike the Registro, operates in very competitive markets, populated by competitors of great reputation and size.
To be able to play a leading role, RINA in these years has focused heavily on diversification of its services and internationalisation, and is reaping the rewards: at the beginning of 2000, RINA could count on less than 700 employees with a turnover of 85 million Euro. Twenty years later, today, RINA has more than 4,000 colleagues in 70 countries who contribute to make more than 500 million Euro of revenues.
Such a growth would not have been possible without the most important asset and capital of RINA: its people. Today, like in the past, the enhancement of human resources is the cornerstone of RINA’s development, allowing the company to aim at increasingly important goals and to put in place its strategic plan.
About its strategy, RINA today is increasingly committed to safeguard the environment and mankind: in fact, we are particularly active in the fields of decarbonisation and digitalisation, according to ESG principles that for us, like many other companies, have become cornerstones around which all the company’s activity revolves.
To be able to contribute together with many other colleagues to the growth of such an organisation is an exciting experience, like it had been over the past decades, as recalled in this book. An organisation that deserves respect for its history and for the high principles on which it is based, capable of connecting people with a sense of belonging and, dare I say, love.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
This book is about people who were and still are part of an entity which bears a name that has changed several times through its history: the Registro Italiano born in 1861, known to all as Rina.
It is a woman’s name, however we are not speaking of one woman only but many women and men. It is neither a political party or a religious group, although the dedication of the people who have been part of it borders in many ways on the monastic life. These are people who have devoted their lives to a common cause, alongside family affections but often involving family members too. Something that combines public and private aspects, with a convergence of interests on certain fundamental issues - safety, health, human life and environmental protection - which is difficult to explain to the uninitiated.
For the sake of record, in the last century the Registro was known as RINA, spelt in every possible way, with full stops, R.I.NA., Registro Italiano Navale, or even R.I.N.edA., when it was the Registro Italiano Navale e Aeronautico.
In the last century, Registro and RINA were one and the same, whereas since 1999, when Registro conferred all its operational activities to RINA S.p.A., they have been two distinct legal entities. To avoid any possible misunderstanding, we will continue in this story to call the parent body Registro, and RINA the one that since the end of the last century has been RINA S.p.A., the joint stock holding company of the Group of the same name, set up on purpose by the Registro to be ready to face the free market.
Whether it is the name of a book, the Register Book, a woman’s name, Rina, or a cold acronym, RINA, the subject of this story is a multi-faceted living being, constantly growing and evolving, able to keep up with the times, with a vision of the future. Like all living beings, it has sometimes made us suffer and lose sleep, but it knows how to withstand bad weather with great strength, even in those moments when a perfect storm seems to be brewing. Today we talk about resilience, the property of being tenacious and overcoming the most difficult trials. We have had to face some difficult trials but we have drawn the strength from them to rise again and become better than before, while staying united.
This book seeks to tell from the inside some impressions of working life during a period that represents a quarter of the history of the Registro and twenty years of RINA’s recent history. Forty years, from the 1980s to the present day, divided into four parts, which look like geological eras, given their significant differences.
The first part, the 1980s, was the period of full maturity of the Registro; the second part, the 1990s, was a period of transformation, the transition from Registro to RINA; the third part, from the early 2000s to 2010, featured strong growth of RINA in the most consolidated sectors, and can be summed up in a single word, rinascimento or rebirth; the fourth part, from 2011 to the present day, saw strong innovation, diversification and expansion of RINA in all markets, and represents a great rinnovamento or renewal. Each of these geological eras has been characterised by a very different working environment.
The 1980s was the paper era. In a very hierarchical, compartmentalised working environment, every important communication was on paper, telexes, circular letters, certificates, register books, regulations, strictly logged, filed and kept in drawers. People were very careful about what they wrote, because once it was put down on paper it could no longer be corrected, unless they used white out. The first electronic typewriters, which allowed one to correct the written text, could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
The second era, the 1990s, saw the appearance of computers. The first servers, large cabinets in the computer centre, were used to develop programmes, but they were replaced by increasingly powerful computers, used to record countless sets of information rather than make calculations. Terminals began to appear in offices alongside printers and then on desks. Then there came personal computers that one could even take home, or on missions. However, paper was still important; actually, since printing and reprinting was becoming so easy, it had grown out of all proportion. There was no longer enough room in the archives, in the Branch Offices and in the cabinets of the Head Office.
At the beginning of the 2000s, we entered the era of email communications, attaching drawings, graphics, documents in electronic format, with application and management programmes designed to eliminate the use of paper. Email communication became an essential part of doing business, often replacing verbal communication. This led to a huge increase in the number of reply messages, or just messages sent for information, on issues that used to be settled in a few minutes over the phone.
The fourth era, up to the present, is based on a working environment where people talk more frequently in front of a screen than in person, where it is no longer necessary for everyone to have their own desk, they can get in touch from anywhere, and can work from home. The advent of smart working. Where working hours mean almost nothing, people work by objectives, often seamlessly throughout the twenty-four hours. Not least because offices are scattered all over the world.
These changes in the working environment have profoundly altered people and their way of life. Certain daily routines, such as stopping to drink a coffee or making an appointment to go to the canteen together, have disappeared. The boring life of a pen-pusher, who spends eight hours in the office and then goes home for dinner, has disappeared. However, the place where friendships were built, very useful at work but also nurtured outside work, by going on holiday together, to the sea or to the mountains, has also disappeared. Organising dinners between colleagues. Creating a team spirit, without which you cannot get very far. They have partly been replaced today by social networks, where information, feelings and comments are constantly exchanged but this is not enough. Relationships and trust between people are essential in our work and indeed in any civilised society, and in times of difficulty, feeling united under one roof is even more important.
There are pros and cons in each of the working environments in which we have lived, and the things we did in the past are not necessarily better than the things we do today or will do in the future. In an evolutionary logic, considering the company as a living being, one should think the opposite. The winners are always those most able to handle change positively without forgetting the roots of their culture, the good lessons of the past. Nothing of past experiences should be lost, but our memory is becoming more and more blurred. There are fewer and fewer people who know our history, so that it can be passed on to those who are younger and are taking charge of the company, in what will be the near future.
Like the most beautiful love stories, forty years have passed too quickly. In this book, old stories are told in more detail, with only a passing mention of the more recent ones. Others are much better entitled to write of the latter. The older stories talk about people who have unfortunately left us. Figures of the highest level, regardless of the role they held. We cannot mention them all and there were many others who played a fundamental role, but if they are not mentioned, we hope they will forgive us.
Not every tale told in this book is exactly true. They are tales like those told by old people, with a slightly confused mind and a memory that remembers many details going back in time, forgetting many more recent and perhaps more important ones.
Any opinion expressed in this book is purely personal and should not be used to damage the reputation or interests of the company. Like all opinions, those in this book may be subject to a great deal of criticism or clarification, and this would be fine, if anyone has the will and time to do so.
The history of the Registro from its beginnings is told in great detail in the book Il Registro Italiano Navale 1861-1961written by Giulio Giacchero to celebrate the first centennial of the Registro, published by Sigla Effe of Genoa. We are not going to repeat it here, so we will just mention a few points.
It all started 160 years ago, in 1861. At that time, people rode the seas on sailing ships and the first steamships were setting out. Those ships ensured the exchange of goods around the world, the goods of everyday life, commodities as we say today - food, minerals, manufactured goods. And people too: the emigrants who, between the end of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, crossed the ocean on steamships that today would be smaller than many superyachts, not to mention cruise ships.
Ships and cargoes already had to be insured two centuries ago, but how can you insure a vessel going at sea if you do not know how it was built, how it is used and maintained, how it is loaded before departure?
Not every captain or shipowner was untrustworthy, but it was known that some of them overloaded the vessel to the point of reducing to a minimum the loadline, the distance between the deck and the water surface, putting the ship in danger when it had to face waves. Then there were the sails and all the equipment that had to be well maintained to serve during navigation. Accidents that happened to some, loss of ship or cargo, forced everyone to pay very high insurance premiums.
The system was already there, invented in 1760 in London. Watching from a coffee house the ships going up the Thames, insurers and shipping agents decided that it was necessary to check these matters before leaving port and to have it done by independent parties, who would write down the results of this check in a book. The so-called Register Book. The Register Society was born and, in 1914, it became Lloyd’s Register of Shipping. A few years later, in 1828, in Antwerp, the Bureau de renseignements pour les assurances maritimes was born, which in 1833 moved its seat to Paris and became the Bureau Veritas.
Italian shipowners at the time had to pay very high insurance premiums and had no choice but to turn to one of these two organisations. To some extent they were at a disadvantage compared to British or French shipowners, although both registers claimed otherwise. Recognising the importance of these checks from an insurance point of view, similar initiatives were also set up in Italy, in Trieste, then under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and in Genoa, under the Kingdom of Savoy.
In 1857 the ship shareholders, as shipowners were then called, and the Genoese insurers, overcoming some internal disagreements in favour of common interests, founded a very important association, the Mutua Assicurazione Marittima (Mutual Maritime Insurance Association), in order to cover risks related to loss and/or damage to the hull and equipment.
On the initiative of this association, precisely on 24 September 1861 - only six months after the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy on 17 March 1861 - the Registro Italiano was born in Genoa and a few years later it was recognised, by Royal Decree of 29 September 1870, as a private national non-profit-making body.
Already in 1861, the Registro Italiano published its first Rules for the classification of ships, printed by the Tipografia e Litografia Pellas of Genoa. These rules contained a description of the criteria followed by the Registro for the classification of hull and equipment (on different levels, representing the degree of trustworthiness and the state of the hull and equipment). These included a very important criterion: to maintain class, the ship had to be managed by the owner according to the rules and undergo periodic surveys by the Registro (at that time biennial, today annual and five-yearly).
The Registro Italiano was the third classification society to have been founded in the world, after the Register Societyand Bureau Veritas. These were followed by others including, in alphabetical and not chronological order: American Bureau of Shipping, Chinese Register, Det Norske Veritas and Germanischer Lloyd (now a single company), Indian Register, Korean Register, Nippon Kaiji Kyokai, Polsky Register and Russian Register.
Right from its earliest years, the Registro Italiano enjoyed the conscious support of the Italian Merchant Marine. The first Register Book dated 1863 included only 13 shipowners, mostly from Genoa, and 340 sailing ships, while just two years later, in 1865, there were more than 1,500 sailing ships, barges and steamers in the Register Book, belonging to 49 shipowners, with a total of 263,489 tonnage. Out of curiosity, the Register Book listed a ship named Adamo and another called Eva among the first classified.
The Board of Directors of the Registro was mainly made up by representatives of the insurers, with Giobatta Piaggio, Director of the Mutua Assicurazione Marittima, as Chairman. The Registro’s Board later included representatives from the Chambers of Commerce of the maritime cities, to acquire a national character, and by Royal Decree of 29 September 1870 it was recognised as an "establishment of public utility for commerce".
The Flag States soon realised the importance of the work of classification societies, also in order to make sure ships complied with safety of navigation regulations and began to recognise the surveys of classification societies and authorise them to act on their behalf. Therefore, in addition to the private nature of these inspections, which were carried out for insurance purposes, a public nature was added for the purpose of verifying the safety of human life at sea.
In Italy, following the adoption of the Merchant Marine Code, on 20 November 1879, the Royal Decree of 29 April 1881 recognised the inspections and surveys carried out by Registro Italiano as equivalent to State inspections. A convergence of public and private views and interests.
As often happens at the turn of a century, there was a serious crisis in the early 1900s but this turned out to be a great opportunity. Sea transport was moving from traditional sailing ships to steamships capable of crossing oceans, to transport of emigrants and in view of the opening of the Suez Canal. In Italy, public shipping companies were growing and were able to make large investments, with state subsidies, which drove leading shipyards to build steel steamships, based on innovative design criteria.
The Registro Italiano had not been able to anticipate this industrial revolution and found itself displaced. Its rules were obsolete, covering the needs of traditional ships but not adapted to the new design and construction criteria of the great steamships of the time.
On the initiative of the most important liner owners and the large shipbuilding and mechanical industries, another register was created in Italy in 1909, the Registro Nazionale, which, after several opinions from the Superior Council of the Merchant Marine, also obtained recognition by the Italian State.
They were not the only ones to feel this need. Similar initiatives had been taken in England, with the foundation in 1891 of the British Corporation Register, which competed with Lloyd’s Register of Shipping.
However, the aim of the founders of the Registro Nazionale was not to annihilate the Registro Italiano, their design was different. In the introductory speech introducing the Registro Nazionale, Undersecretary Chimenti said "my thoughts, like those of the Minister I represent, are reverent and grateful to our ancient institution of the Registro Italiano, which for so many years has served the country and the Navy".
After an intense phase of negotiation, the two Registries were merged, maintaining the prestige earned by the Registro Italiano in 50 years of activity, at the same time updating rules to keep pace with technology innovation. The Board of Directors of the new Registro involved more than 60 members, representing liner owners and the main shipyards, and reinforcing the presence of the Ministry of the Marine and Port Authorities.
The operation was completed in 1910. The organisation was renamed the Registro Nazionale Italiano and was elevated by the Italian Administration to the role of non-profit organisation, at the same time as its new by-laws were approved. The Registro became the only body recognised by the Italian Maritime Authority for governmental investigations concerning navigation safety and tonnage. The Registro thus took on a double role, as a private classification society and as a state technical body, combining in a single body what in other States was carried out by separate institutions (for example, in Great Britain by Lloyd’s Register of Shipping or by the British Corporation Register and the Marine Department Board of Trade).
With this token of esteem, the Italian Government made Registro’s classification compulsory for the majority of ships flying the Italian flag, including ships licensed to carry passengers, ocean-going cargo ships, ships intended for rescue and towing on the high seas, and ships wishing to be classified in another foreign Register.
Without this crisis, it would have taken many years to achieve such a radical reform of the Registro. One of the lessons of this story is that an organisation unable to keep up to date with technical developments is doomed to a bad end.
The Great War which involved Italy from 1915 to 1918 cut short a long period of vigorous expansion of maritime traffic in the early twentieth century. A total of 275 Italian merchant marine vessels were lost due to the war, representing almost 860,000 tonnage, to which must be added 424 sailing ships representing over 100,000 tonnage.
The war meant that the Registro had to work with reduced staff due to the many calls for service, and it had to work tenaciously in response to the discouraging temptation to abandon the enterprise. However, the Registro did not cease its activities altogether, they were only reduced. A sign of the Registro’s ability to withstand very adverse events and, as they say today, of great resilience. Throughout its history, there would be other examples of this capacity, which we will recount later.
At the end of the war, in 1917, the Minister of Transport adopted a reorganisation of the Registro which completed its unification process by absorbing in 1921 the Veritas Adriatico (former register of the Austro-Hungarian Empire linked to Lloyd’s Register of Shipping). The Board of Directors was increased to 20 members, accentuating the weight of State participation. The Presidency of the Registro was moved to Rome while the Head Office was kept in Genoa, in a historic building in Via Balbi. In addition, two operational offices were established, one in Genoa, covering the Tyrrhenian Sea and the islands, and the other in Trieste for the Adriatic. By Royal Decree of 9 June 1921, the Registrowas established as a Legal Body for the inspection and classification of ships and floating vessels.
The years following the war were characterised by a considerable expansion of the merchant fleet, which brought the national fleet to a tonnage of almost 3.5 million in 1927. The new propulsion systems, the large size, the significant progress made compared to previous constructions were factors that tested the technical resources of the Registro, providing valuable experience for the future. It seemed as if a very long period of growth was to be expected. The conquest of the blue ribbon achieved by the Rex in 1933 became an obvious sounding board.
At that time, the Registro concluded international agreements with several Governments, including Belgium, Greece, France, Iceland, the Netherlands, Portugal and Switzerland, and with other classification societies, namely the British Corporation Register, Bureau Veritas, the American Bureau of Shipping, Germanischer Lloyd, Lloyd’s Register of Shipping and the Teikoku Kijii Kyokai, with mutual recognition of inspections, thus increasing its presence in every port in the world. Over the decades, these agreements grew and then gradually declined, due to the coming into force of regulations which now require classification and statutory surveys to be carried out by exclusive personnel, except in cases of force majeure.
With the advent of Fascism, the tasks entrusted by the Italian State to the Registro grew further, including those of Law Decree no. 2138 of 11 November 1926 (later converted into Law no. 337 of 16 February 1928) for the issue of tonnage, seaworthiness and inland navigation certificates. However, the forms of control exercised by the State over the Registroalso increased considerably. Every important decision was subject to the Minister’s approval, in other words the Registro came very close to becoming a State body. The Chairman of the Board of Directors was to be appointed by royal decree, on a proposal by the Minister for Communications after consultation with the Council of Ministers. In 1932 the Minister defined the tasks entrusted to the Registro in the Italian colonies in North Africa. A decree by H.E. the Head of the Government granted the Institute the honour of decorating its buildings with the emblem of the fasces, and the Presidency of the Council of Ministers authorised the Registro offices to hoist the national flag with the Royal Crown on it.
In 1927, the Registro had classified 1,603 ships (including steamships, motor vessels, motor sailers and auxiliary sailers) totalling 2,691,187 gross tonnage.
The Registro’s activities were not limited to the marine field. Royal Decree no. 2163 of 9 June 1927 gave the Registrothe task of classifying, monitoring and inspecting aircraft used for commercial services for the transport of passengers, mail, goods and the like, as well as issuing certificates of seaworthiness and class. The institute took the name Registro Italiano Navale ed Aeronautico (R.I.N.edA., Italian Naval and Aeronautical Registry).
At that time, the Registro was a resolute supporter of the agreement stipulated in 1927 with Bureau Veritas, Germanischer Lloyd and Teikoku Kaiji Kyokai for the publication of an international register of aircraft called A.I.R. (Aircraft International Register).
In 1936 there were 43 Italian civil airlines with more than 7 million kilometres flown and 64,000 passengers carried. Just three years later, over 15 million kilometres were flown and almost 176,000 passengers carried. The need for technical monitoring of the aircraft was fully proven.
The Registro lost the tasks delegated by the Italian State for the classification of aircraft before the Second World War, by Royal Decree No 1912 of 24 November 1938, in favour of the Registro Aereonautico Italiano (Italian Aircraft Registry), a public body subject to the supervision of the Ministry of Aeronautics. From that moment on, it took the name Registro Italiano Navale (R.I.NA.).
In 1938, the Registro classified 2,640 ships (including steamships, motor vessels, motor sailers and auxiliary sailers) totalling 3,572,178 gross tonnage.
Parallel to the increase in classified tonnage, the Registro expanded its organisation and services, which from the 1926 Decree became very extensive, including: preparation of technical regulations, examination of drawings and plans of hulls, engines and installations, supervision of construction, surveys of ships in operation, testing of hull materials, engines and machinery, approval of fillers and welders, assignment of loadline, inspections of seagoing ships for the purpose of state regulations (safety regulations, vessel tonnage calculation, awards and compensation, seaworthiness and suitability of vessels, approval for the transport of dangerous goods, stability and buoyancy checks, etc.).
The technical organization in 1938 included the Head Office of Genoa, the peripheral offices in Italy under three Directorates respectively in Genoa, Naples and Trieste, and 180 agencies abroad (80 in Europe, 17 in Africa, 52 in America, 20 in Asia and 11 in Australia), many of them born from cooperation agreements with other classification bodies, acting in their respective countries on behalf of the Registro while the Registro acted on their behalf in Italy.
During those years there was also a strong impetus towards the development of international rules on maritime transport safety. Among the first of these was the International Loadline Convention, adopted in 1930 at an international conference in London, which explicitly referred to the rules of classification societies, inviting the Governments to require recognised bodies to standardise their verification criteria to ensure maximum uniformity in determining the regulatory strength degree on which loadline depends.
The Registro drew up rules for determining the maximum loadline for ships in domestic navigation, making them comply with the Convention, which in 1933 by Ministerial Decree became the "Rules of the Italian Loadline".
In 1939, the Registro took charge of organising in Rome the first world congress of classification societies, to establish common criteria for the application of the Loadline Convention. Already in 1935, the then Chairman of the Registro, Admiral Alfredo Baistrocchi, expressed the opinion that it would be highly useful to take into serious consideration the formal vote of the London International Loadline Convention, which was intended to establish an agreement among the various classification societies to ensure that the rules of the Convention would be applied uniformly in all States. The Rome conference organised by the Registro, with the participation of the other major classification societies, was a great success with technical and planning agreements that were only interrupted by the beginning of the Second World War, and then resumed after the war with the Paris conference and the London conference, which decreed the establishment of the International Association of Classification Societies in 1968.
The tragic consequences of the Second World War included the total blockade of merchant marine activities, the closure of shipyards and the confiscation of ships. The Registro lost a large part of its classed fleet, which fell from 3,500,000 to 300,000 tonnage. From 1941 to 1945, publication of the Register Book was interrupted. In 1944 the Board of the Registro was dissolved and an extraordinary Commissioner was appointed in the person of Admiral Barone. The heads of the individual Branch Offices were able to keep the offices alive during this dramatic period, with Italy divided in two, despite all the obstacles and under bombardment. These sacrifices restored confidence and momentum immediately after the liberation. From April 1945 to the beginning of 1947, the situation of personnel and offices was re-examined, the management was strengthened and premises were found that were better suited to the needs of all offices. In the meantime, the merchant marine saw the prospect of a rapid revival, including the conversion of American Liberty and T2 ships and the salvage of damaged ships.
After the war, in 1947, Decree Law No. 340 on the reorganisation of the Registro reduced state control compared to the times of the Fascist regime, returning to the spirit of the 1910 By-laws. In a subsequent decree, the Minister for the Merchant Marine established that, in addition to classification surveys and the testing of materials, the Registro was to be entrusted with inspections relating to certificates of tonnage, seaworthiness, safety of life at sea, fire prevention and surveillance of newbuildings, for all merchant ships flying the Italian flag.
Thanks to this reform, the Registro was able to start a new taking advantage of the economic boom of the 1950s and 1960s, increasing its branch offices, or as they were then called inspectorates, in Italy and agencies abroad, updating its rules, resuming international regulatory activities and cooperation with other registers. At the beginning of the 1950s, the Registro once again had 40 working offices in Italy, including 13 Branch Offices and 81 agencies abroad. This work proceeded in parallel with the renewal and extension of the technical and administrative staff, which made it possible to reduce the use of non-exclusive personnel and to speed up the rule updating. In 1955, the Registro achieved its goal of placing almost all of its main offices in their own premises, setting up about 30 service lodgings to make relocation less difficult. In the second half of the 1950s, at least a quarter of the entire world fleet was rebuilt, and in Italy the shipyards launched 244 ships for a tonnage of over one and a half million.
In the meantime, cooperation with other classification registers was resumed. In April 1959 saw the second conference of classification societies in Paris, following the Rome conference of 1939, a further step towards the foundation of IACS, the International Association of Classification Societies. In fact, in 1968 the Registro was one of the seven founding members of the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS), the first non-governmental organisation (NGO) invited to take part in the proceedings of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The work of IACS began to address many of the issues of classification rules with a view to unifying their requirements, drawing on those listed at the 1939 Rome Conference.
Equally demanding work was carried out by the Registro within the framework of the Italian delegation sent by the Minister of the Merchant Marine to the preparatory meetings for the Conference on the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), held in London in 1960, under the auspices of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) established in 1948 by the United Nations.
The General Manager of the Registro, Gino Soldà, played a key role at the conference as Chairman of the Construction Committee and of the Machinery and Electrical Installations sub-committee. Gino Soldà, first as a surveyor, then as Secretary and finally as General Manager of the Registro, had played an active role in the proceedings of the 1929, 1948 and 1960 conferences. This tradition continued with Lorenzo Spinelli and Giuliano Pattofatto, both at different times elected Chairman of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), and with many other colleagues, among whom we are pleased to remember Antonino Basso, an expert on dangerous goods and one of the authors of the IMO Code of safety for nuclear merchant ships.
The Registro also took an active part in the work of numerous other national and international bodies relating to the shipping industry, including the International Standard Organisation (ISO), the International Welding Institute (IWI), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and many others. A glance at the production of memoirs and studies prepared by the members of the Registro reveals an admirable breadth and depth of the research they contributed to the country and the international community.
A history that since 1861 has been approaching that of the present day by leaps and bounds, in a process of continuous growth. Today’s ships are concentrations of technology, looking much more like spaceships in terms of the level of automation on board and the means of communication, so much so that one would think that in the near future they could cross the oceans unmanned. However, the fundamental values of seafaring have not changed and can be summed up in the motto “Safety first” on the bridge of many ships.
Let us now take a step back, to the first conference of classification institutes held in Italy in 1939, organised by Admiral Alfredo Baistrocchi, Chairman of the Registro.
It was attended by all the major classification societies of the time: in addition to the Registro Italiano, there were the American Bureau of Shipping, the British Corporation Register and Lloyd’s Register of Shipping, the French Bureau Veritas, the Germanischer Lloyd, the Norwegian Det Norske Veritas and the Japanese Teikoku Kiji Kyokai, the latter represented by the Registro.
Altogether, the world fleet classed by these societies at the end of 1938 comprised 30,990 ships totalling 67,846,511 gross tonnage, including some 52 million tonnage of steamers, 15 million motor vessels and 1 million motorsailers and sailing ships. The Registro held about 8.5% of the world’s classed fleet by number of ships (2,629 ships) and 5% by gross tonnage (3.5 million).
The congress started in Rome with a visit to the Capitoline Hill, for the official greetings of the Authorities, opened by the Minister of Communications Benni, then the participants took a working trip from the Gulf of Naples to Sicily, Messina and Palermo, which lasted about ten days. The meetings on board the ship and in the places visited were held in Italian, English, French and German, with simultaneous translation, and the documents were translated into four languages. A sign of respect for the nations represented.
In those days, there was already deeply rooted feeling that Europe was heading towards a tragic call to arms, which would involve the world, given the alliances at stake and the worsening of international relations. All the participants and the heads of the individual delegations refused to resign themselves to the inevitability of war and expressed the opposite view, the need for international technical cooperation between classification societies to increase the safety of human life at sea.
The objectives of the conference proposed by the Registro and fully shared by the other participants were very ambitious. First of all to reaffirm the fundamental purpose of class: to contribute to technical perfection, to the safety of navigation and human life at sea, and to the economy of trade worldwide. They also reiterated that classification societies served both insurance companies, by ascertaining the degree of trustworthiness of ships, and governments, by ensuring safety of navigation.
Adm. Baistrocchi did not fail to point out in his introductory speech that the Italian State had recognised the validity of surveys and certificates issued by the Registro for ships flying the Italian flag and that nine other Governments had issued similar recognition. The other Registers made similar statements.
The technical discussion focused on the loadline rules adopted at the London conference, which required classification societies to standardise their criteria for verifying hull strength. It was up to them to give a uniform interpretation to these rules, to discourage tendencies towards technical waivers and evasions, and to counteract by providing sufficiently uniform regulations, while reaffirming full respect for individual autonomy.
The work of the commissions made it possible to reach general agreement on numerous points concerning the verification of hull strength and the loadline rules. On many other points, such as machinery and boilers, the conference recommended continuing the discussions at subsequent conferences.
At the end of the congress, the societies unanimously agreed to the proposals made by Adm. Baistrocchi and decided that the work should continue and that the congress should be held every two years. The body hosting each congress would take on the burden of the preparatory work, such as that done by the Registro, on the topics agreed with the other bodies. It was also agreed that the second congress of classification institutes should be held in Paris in 1941.
The volume of the congress provides a very detailed account of the areas where agreement had already been reached and those where work was planned, including the assessment of the ship’s strength modulus, which years later became one of the first unified requirements of IACS, and many other topics. This first meeting of classification institutes was in effect the forerunner of the International Association of Classification Societies founded in London in 1968.
The other societies’ Chairmen did not fail to send warm letters of thanks to Adm. Baistrocchi after the congress, grateful for the work of the Registro and for the results achieved, which marked a fundamental moment in relations among the classification societies.
They also praised the beauty of Italy, which had not yet been devastated by the bombs, noting that if the same climate of cooperation had existed at the political level, many problems would have disappeared. Unfortunately, only a few months later the opposite happened, the cataclysm of World War II, and the dialogue between the classification institutes was interrupted until the second conference was held twenty years later, in 1959, in Paris.