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Billionaire Gives Away His Fortune to Help Save the Ocean

Norwegian businessman Kjell Inge Røkke is not someone usually admired for environmental stewardship. Described by Forbes as a "ruthless corporate raider," Røkke made his billions as the majority stakeholder in shipping and offshore drilling conglomerate, Aker.


The twist to this story? Røkke has decided to give "the lion's share" of his estimated $2.7 billion fortune towards building a 596-foot marine research vessel, the Research Expedition Vessel (REV), that's also designed to scoop up 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," Røkke told the publication. "This ship is a part of that."

According to Business Insider, the mega-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.

Røkke, 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, plasticization of the ocean. The need for knowledge and solutions is pressing."

While onboard, the researchers will attempt to answer some of the most pressing questions facing our seas:

• 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 will be a platform for gathering knowledge," Røkke told Business Insider. "I would like to welcome researchers, environmental groups, and other institutions on board, to acquire new skills to evolve innovative solutions to address challenges and opportunities connected to the seas."

Yachts, especially one of this size, of course have some environmental drawbacks but here are some of the ship's green credentials:

• 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 sea water 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 ship is expected to be operational by summer 2020. Not only will it be the largest in the world once built, the REV will be the world's heaviest, at 16,000GT.

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