Designing a Superyacht Destined for Scientific Discovery
At 183 metres, the new REV project, currently in build, will be one of the biggest yachts in the world. But it’s not just big for the sake of it; its colossal size is simply in keeping with the sheer scale of its ambition. The Norwegian owner, Kjell Inge Røkke, has no intention of sailing around Monaco on this giant ship – instead, he wants to carry out scientific research all over the world, uncovering new truths about our oceans and even helping to preserve them in the process.
Designer Espen Oeino calls it the most important project of his career – a massive claim for someone who has designed some of the most impressive yachts on the planet. But, for him, REV (Research Expedition Vessel) stands out from the crowd. “REV is disruptive compared to regular yachts,” he explains. “40% of the real estate on board is dedicated to science and we’re also trying to be as environmentally responsible as possible.”
This combination of science and sustainable building has been a challenge – but Oeino has clearly relished every last second. Much of the scientific tech on board is impossibly complicated – or “super James Bond” – as he describes it. For starters, there’s a 35-seat auditorium, wet and dry laboratories, a conference centre, two helipads, plastic collection concepts, media editing suites for creating documentaries – the list goes on, detailing increasingly complex pieces of research equipment.
Oeino has also ensured that when Røkke is on board with his family, there will be plenty of opportunity for collaborative learning. “There is private family space, “ he says, “but we also have dedicated mingling rooms, classrooms and an auditorium where scientists can mix with the family and vice versa.” A huge, enclosed observation area with floor-to-ceiling glass is another prized feature for everyone to take advantage of, ideal for the boat’s inevitable journeys through Antarctica and the Arctic.
Oeino has also gone to great lengths to incorporate a ‘green philosophy’ into the design of the boat. “I always say if you want to be environmentally responsible, slenderness is key,” he says. “You need to play with the geometry. It sounds like the future but it’s also the past – if you look at outriggers in the Pacific, you can see they’ve already figured it out.” It’s a philosophy Oeino also embraced on SilverYachts, a fast and slender line of yachts he designed to great acclaim a few years back.
Back on REV, he reveals another key to minimising the power requirement of the boat; reducing the top speed. “Not many people acknowledge this,” he says, “but you basically double your power for the sake of those last few knots. For the work we’re doing, we don’t need to do 22 knots, which is what a ship of this size would normally do – so the power requirements are smaller.”
The team considered going electric but as the boat wasn’t on a scheduled service between A and B decided it would be impossible to organize the fuel supply accordingly. ‘As of today, we are running marine grade diesel electric,” says Oeino. In fact, the boat is capable of circumnavigating the globe without stopping for fuel, no doubt music to the ears of the owner, who has an exhaustive to-do list for the boat.
“Røkke is an extremely inquisitive guy; he might not have a scientific background, but he’s very smart and very curious,” explains Oeino, recalling a recent conversation with the boat’s owner down on the docks in Norway. “He said ‘Espen, it’s nearly 40 years to the day since my Mum drove me to this dock for me to get the fast ferry across the fjord here to sign up on my first fishing assignment.” Røkke now has fishing operations all over the world and many other lucrative business interests besides. “He still has his local fishing boat in Norway though,” says Oeino, “he just really likes to be at sea.”
Unsurprisingly, Røkke has been keen to address overfishing problems, which are close to his heart. “We have developed a special trawler arrangement on the boat,” says Oeino. “A machine optically measures fish as they are caught so you only pick up exactly what you’re looking for.” It’s just one of any number of new initiatives on REV that are destined to have an impact far beyond the boat itself. “Being sustainable and having all this machinery on board involves an element of sacrifice, because of all of these things take up space,” says Oeino. For that reason, the boat’s ever-growing size wasn’t too much of a surprise. “Somehow boats always end up being too small,” he says.
The final product will be completed by 2020 and Oeino has high hopes for its wider influence. “I hope it will inspire other similar projects,” he says, “it’s rewarding for owners and they can realistically expect to get something out of it, especially as 85% of marine life is still undiscovered.”
He is also hopeful that Røkke’s commitment to the Giving Pledge, announced in his only press interview, might inspire other owners. “He’s giving away a large portion of his fortune and REV is part of that,” says Oeino. “I think it might trigger something.”