How did you get involved with REV Ocean?
Through WWF I worked with several of the Aker companies and met Kjell Inge Rokke a few times, and in 2016 he reached out to me with his idea of REV Ocean. After turning him down for pretty much over a year, I decided this was the best chance I had at making a difference for the ocean. What could be better than combining my conservation skills and passion and marine biology with an industrialist and capitalist who has pretty much always succeeded in what he set his mind to?
How do you feel when REV is referred to as a ‘superyacht’?
Well, it’s certainly not the right terminology to use alone. It is the world’s largest and most advanced research vessel, and two thirds of the space and time onboard the vessel will be dedicated to science and expeditions.
But of course it is also a very exclusive and elegant superyacht, so in many ways it’s actually four ships in one. It’s a research vessel, an expedition vessel, an offshore vessel with trawling capabilities, and a superyacht.
When I started the initiative the yacht aspects of the ship were what made me somewhat uncomfortable, but now it’s one of the things that gets me most excited. To be able to change the fate of the ocean and life in it, we really need to influence and get the help of some of the most powerful and influential people on the planet. The only way of doing that is inviting them out, getting them to see what is happening in the ocean, what we’re doing and how they can contribute. Currently less than 1% of global philanthropy is going toward the ocean, so there is huge potential for change there.
What are the main goals you aim to achieve in terms of the mission?
Our overall goal is to improve the health of the ocean in three major areas: plastic pollution, climate change and overfishing.
That means making sure there are more fish in the ocean, healthier habitats and less impact from CO2 and ocean acidification.
And what have you got planned in terms of initiatives after the research has been gathered?
We are working with major scientific institutions worldwide to identify and cover knowledge gaps; such as how plastic is distributed throughout the entire water column, impacts on marine life, long-term impacts on the ecosystem and increasingly human health. But most importantly how can we keep it from entering the ocean and how can we clean it up once it’s there.
We will be piloting concrete technical solutions to ocean problems, as well as hosting high level meetings onboard the vessel with key decision makers to make sure we are advancing policy solutions. As an example, how can increased responsibility be put on plastic producers, and ensure adequate funding for recycling and waste management systems. It is estimated that ¾ of the plastics today end up in landfills or the environment which is of course dreadful when we know production and consumption of plastic is expected to double over the next 20 years so the producers really need to take more responsibility.
Then we have established two sister foundations - The Ocean Data Platform where we will combine and openly share ocean data and make it more readily available to decision-makers worldwide.
And The Plastic REVolution Foundation whose goal is to create scalable and commercially viable solutions to plastic waste. We have started with a pilot in Ghana where the problem is massive, where we are exploring to use plastic-to-fuel plants, to give value to the plastic waste so it is collected and recycled and not ending up in the ocean.
Obviously the build and operation of REV Ocean will inevitably have a negative impact on the environment. What actions have been taken to mitigate the footprint of that?
That has been on the top of the agenda since the outset of the project. All of our suppliers and contractors have been striving to get the best available environmental technology for the vessel; which comes down to everything from the anti-fouling, paint, decks, steel. The ship is also constructed in a way to reduce drag and friction, and further reduce fuel consumption.
We looked at the various forms of propulsion we could use - ideally we wanted it to be fully electric. But as technology is not reliable enough, and given that the ship can be out at sea for up to 120 days consecutively, we opted for diesel electric.
We definitely want to retrofit the propulsion once new means become available, and we will have some solar and wind onboard the ship mainly for onboard power generation. All of the systems are interlinked in a good way with heat/energy recovery systems, so we are at all times reducing our energy consumption and making sure nothing is going to waste.
We have also worked with suppliers to make sure the paint and decks are certified materials. For the decks for example, one of the suppliers Wolz Nautic provided a material called Limba - this is FSC certified, and is something they didn’t have in their portfolio originally but they developed specifically for REV. It looks somewhat like teak but it’s 100% sustainable, which I’m thrilled about. Wolz Nautic are super excited about it too, and if I am not mistaken they have already been approached by several clients to put it on their vessels as well.
For the unavoidable environmental footprint, we will be offsetting through MyClimate and their mangrove restoration projects. The aim of this is to offset all of our CO2 footprint and become ‘planet positive’.
Even in terms of food for the boat, we are aiming to source as locally as possible. We are even looking into whether we can produce food ourselves onboard the vessel; this is still in the development phase at the moment.
How does the mission represent something totally new in ocean conservation efforts?
We are combining science and conservation with capitalism and industrialism in a new way, bringing together a multitude of stakeholders and key ocean experts to create groundbreaking solutions to ocean problems.
How can our readers get involved with the project?
An initiative like this will never succeed unless we are able to bring the right people and partners along on the journey. Saving life in the ocean is not something REV Ocean will be able to do on its own, we are doing it with a wide range of partners and the most brilliant talent in the world. We want to work with the best and the brightest, so if you have a great idea we hope you reach out.
Follow us on social media, share ideas and suggestions throughout those channels, and spread the word about the various ocean problems and solutions that exist out there!
As the vessel hit the water for the first time last year, REV made headlines as the largest superyacht to ever be launched, toppling Azzam from the long-retained title. But the REV Ocean vessel and its significance is far more nuanced than its impressive LOA. From future proofing propulsion systems to ethically sourcing materials, the painstaking measures taken by REV Ocean should serve as a benchmark to the industry at large, and a sober reminder that it is our responsibility to protect the ocean we so love to enjoy.