Norwegian billionaire Kjell Inge Roekke has declared that he will give away “the lion’s share” of his massive fortune to help save the world’s oceans.
Mr Roekke is a former fisherman who made his fortune in the oil industry and as the majority stakeholder in a shipping and offshore drilling conglomerate. He is worth 2.7 billion USD, making him one of the richest people in Europe.
The billionaire will donate the bulk of his money towards building a 596-foot marine research vessel, the Research Expedition Vessel (REV). Besides marine research, the REV is also designed to combat a major oceanic threat—plastic pollution.
The REV, a collaboration with Norway’s World Wildlife Fund (WWF), will be able to suck up to 5 tons of plastic a day from the waters and melt it down, Norway’s Aftenposten newspaper reported. “I want to give back to society the bulk of what I’ve earned,” Mr Roekke told the publication. “This ship is a part of that.”
Mr Roekke, who is a former fisherman, said the oceans “have provided significant value for society” and directly to him and his family. “However,” he noted, “the oceans are also under greater pressure than ever before from overfishing, coastal pollution, habitat destruction, climate change and ocean acidification, and one of the most pressing challenges of all, plasticisation of the ocean. The need for knowledge and solutions is pressing.”
The REV is essentially a super-yacht – which will be the world’s largest once built – can carry 60 scientists and 40 crew. The REV will be equipped with modern laboratories, an auditorium, two helipads, a hangar for a remote operated vehicle, an autonomous underwater vehicle as a multifunctional cargo deck aft of the ship, and high-tech equipment for monitoring and surveying marine areas. It is also available for private charters for up to 36 guests and 54 crew, which will help generate extra funding for research.
According to Mr Roekke, the oceans cover 70% of our planet and the vast ocean depth represents the world’s last frontier. Some 90% of the ocean has not yet been explored, and offer countless opportunities if managed sustainably. The REV is designed for autonomous operations all over the world. With a range of 21,120 nautical miles at 50% service load, the vessel can sail non-stop almost 98 % the circumference of the equator. With innovative green technology, the goal is to minimize the environmental footprint of the vessel:
The REV will champion marine research
The ship will be equipped for research and investigation of the entire marine ecosystem. Most of the technology on board has been developed by world-leading knowledge clusters in Norway.
According to the WWF’s ”Living Planet Report” from 2016, fish, seabird, mammal and reptile populations declined by 36 percent on average from 1970 to 2012, illustrating the need for a large-scale rescue effort. Ocean habitats from the tropics to the poles are also declining fast. If pollution continues at the same pace, one estimate shows that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.
In order to rectify the situation, scientists on the REV see the need to intensify efforts to combat climate change and illegal fishing, develop more environmentally friendly fishing methods, and reduce and clear up waste and pollution in the oceans. There is also a pressing need for global action through both private and public initiatives to shift the world’s population towards a more climate-friendly and renewable future.
An independent scientific committee will evaluate and recommend research projects to pursue, and ensure the highest level of scientific standards and research quality. An international advisory board will provide guidance and advice on how to develop the initiative further.
The ship will be fitted with high-tech equipment for monitoring and surveying marine areas, currents, the seabed, fish, animals and plant life in all of the world’s oceans.
The ship will also feature cutting-edge laboratory facilities for analysis work, as well as an auditorium for lectures and debates. Live streaming will ensure state of the art communication and continuous dissemination of the research done on board the vessel. This way, knowledge is gathered and refined precisely where the challenges in the ocean are greatest and most needed.
Some of the questions which the researchers will tackle include:
What impact does CO2 emissions have on the oceans and ocean acidification, and what can we do to reduce the effects?
How can we overcome plastic pollution, which is causing extensive damage throughout the marine food chain?
What can we do to save endangered species?
How can we reduce bycatch and make harvesting of marine resources more sustainable?
Are there untapped resources in the oceans, which through sustainable harvest could provide new sources of food or energy for future generations?
The REV is also environmentally-friendly. It terms this as its “green philosophy”.
Diesel electric with additional 3MW lithium ion battery pack for peak shaving ensuring optimum efficiency, with silent running under batteries alone for limited periods of time at biomass sampling speeds 2 kts during research missions.
Medium speed generators compiling with the latest Marpol Tier III regulation with additional DPF (Diesel Particulate Filters)
High efficiency frequency controlled research winch package with energy recovery system, so that power can be harvested on winch release and re-directed into battery pack
Heat recovery on all main generators and incinerator for feeding back into hot water circuits and HVAC, reducing power demands from generators. Heat recovery system used for generating free fresh water through evaporator plant 30 m3/24 hrs
“Free cool” system for air conditioning system in seawater temperature below 10 degrees, reducing power consumption.
Hi-tech incinerator system allowing all materials including plastics but not metal or glass to be incinerated in an environmental way without producing any noxious gases and limited char, meaning the ship does not have to off load plastic waste to shoreside facilities in countries with limited ability to then dispose of plastics. Every 1 kg of waste burnt puts 110kgs thermal power back into ships systems
Latest LED lighting systems throughout vessel to reduce power consumption
VARD SeaQ “Green Pilot” system for monitoring COx, SOx and NOx emissions plus other environmental parameters to allow crew to run the ship in the most environmental way keeping the carbon footprint to a minimum.
Latest ballast water treatment system to prevent species cross contamination across ocean zones
Vessel built under DNV-GL SILENT-R notation for maximum prevention of underwater noise pollution
Hull construction built to ICE PC6 for navigation in ice infested water, medium first year ice with old inclusions, machinery specified to ICE 1C
Decks covered in either synthetic deck covers or WWF FSC certified woods
The Logical Indian take
The ocean is drowning in plastic. Eight million metric tons of our plastic waste enter the oceans from land each year. According to Greenpeace, the quantity of plastic in the ocean is expected to outweigh fish by 2050. Without international action against plastic pollution, our oceans will continue to suffer.
In such a time, private interventions and overtures like Mr Roekke’s are the need of the hour. The Logical Indian community appreciates Mr Roekke’s commitment to environmental conservation and scientific research and hopes that more billionaires undertake such philanthropic ventures.