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.
"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."