Norwegian Billionaire, Pledging to Give Away Fortune, Orders Advanced Research Vessel

Kjell rokke research vessel
The VARD 6 16 Research Expedition Vessel (REV). Overall length: 182 m. Breadth: 22 m. Credit: VARD

Norwegian shipping and offshore magnate Kjell Inge Roekke plans give away the ‘lion’s share’ of his estimated $2 billion fortune beginning with the construction of a large research and expedition ship to study ocean sustainability.

The vessel, which will operate in partnership with the World Wide Fund for Nature’s Norwegian unit, will have a crew of 30 and will offer space for up to 60 scientists.

“I’ll give back to society the lion’s share of what I’ve earned. This ship is a part of that,” Roekke (58) told the daily Aftenposten on Tuesday.

The self-made billionaire is the majority shareholder of holding company Aker ASA, which in turn controls oil firm Aker BP and oil industry suppliers Aker Solutions and Kvaerner, among others.

A contract for the design and construction of the Research Expedition Vessel (REV) has been place at VARD by Rosellinis Four-10, which is wholly-owned by Røkke and his family. The terms of the contract, including the cost of the vessel, have not been disclosed.

The custom-built REV will be one of the most advanced research expedition vessels in the world.

At a length of 182 meters, it will be the longest expedition vessels ever built by VARD. The shipbuilder says the vessel is designed with slim hull lines in combination with wave-cutting bulb, slender foreship, large propellers and two pairs of stabilization fins. Other key features include an energy recovery rudder system, medium speed engines, a direct drive diesel-electric propulsion system with battery package, and an exhaust cleaning system. It will also be equipped with VARD’S SeaQ Green Pilot, a data-driven system for energy management and operational performance.

The research and expedition area will feature modern laboratories, an auditorium, a hangar for a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) and an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) with direct access to the vessel’s moonpool, and a multifunctional cargo deck.

The research vessel is expected to enter service in 2020. The hull will be built at Vard Tulcea in Romania, and towed to Vard Brattvaag in Norway for outfitting. After delivery in Norway, the vessel will return to Romania for fairing, deck laying and finishing of the accommodation area.

Kjell Inge Røkke commented, “My very first large factory trawler was built by VARD 30 years ago, and I have enjoyed a great relationship with the team at VARD since then. I know what VARD stands for, and it is a pleasure to come back and build this Research Expedition Vessel together with them.”

Røkke continues: “The REV will be a platform for gathering knowledge. 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.”