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REV Ocean: Inside the build of the world's largest ocean research explorer
REV Ocean, the most-talked-about boat in recent years, is preparing to make its debut. Charlotte Hogarth-Jones explores the revolutionary 183-metre explorer yacht.
To describe the 183-metre behemoth, conceived in 2016 by Norwegian billionaire Kjell Inge Røkke, as a “superyacht” doesn’t feel right. It is, quite simply, a different beast entirely – as these amazing pictures reveal.
When BOAT International first previewed her back in 2018, work on this extraordinary expedition vessel – with its state-of-the-art scientific equipment and onboard labs, moon pool, research hangar, and room for 90 people on board at any one time – was just beginning. Today, she’s on the water, and not too far from setting off on her maiden voyage.
No one has ever attempted to make a vessel like this before, so the whole process of construction is a big experiment of sorts,” explains Nina Jensen, REV Ocean’s CEO. (“REV” is short for Research and Expedition Vessel.) “We have an on-site team at the shipyard in Brattvag, Norway, overseeing the construction process, and we have a management team organising the science, operations, communications and chartering from the main office in Oslo. It’s a huge learning curve for all of us but we have a very talented team with diverse experience, so we are all stretching our brains to keep on top of any issues.”
Of course, there has been one big, unforeseeable issue during the building of REV – Covid-19. Norway, where the yacht was transported after its hull and superstructure were completed in Romania, operated a strict lockdown during this time, and only Norwegian residents were allowed in and out of the country, which added a layer of complications.
“The pandemic had ripple effects throughout all REV Ocean partners and suppliers,” explains Lawrence Hislop, REV Ocean’s communication director, and timescales have had to be adjusted because of this. Construction was thankfully able to continue in the spring, but not at full capacity. “The on-site team coped extremely well under the circumstances,” Hislop says. In any event, he notes stoically, it was somewhat anticipated that building the mighty REV Ocean was going to have its challenges.
The overall scale, ambition and uniqueness of the build has been an equal factor, and it’s hard not to marvel at the sheer scale of the project. Right now, for example, there are 10,000 lights, lamps and spotlights on the build, and there will be an additional 5,500 metres of LED strips upon completion. There are 1,000,000 metres of cable on board, and more than 400 Wi-Fi spots. You get the idea. The emphasis now is on fine-tuning, calibrating and testing all the scientific equipment on board while the final pieces of the puzzle are slotted into place.
Make no mistake, there might be swanky luxury cabins for charter guests, and she might be considered the largest superyacht in the world, but REV Ocean’s core mission is, and always will be, saving the ocean. Any profit generated from projects on board will immediately be reinvested into the group’s work for a healthier planet, and it is research and conservation that takes priority. Professionals from all over the world have been united by her, all driven by the desire to affect real, lasting change.
Unsurprisingly, there’s an eager crowd lobbying to spend time on board – from marine research centres and universities to film companies. The REV team received around 100 proposals for places on the vessel’s first voyage, all aligning with the key areas that REV Ocean will be focusing on: finding solutions to climate change, plastic pollution and unsustainable fishing.
So, where will the lucky selection go? REV Ocean will be launched in Oslo, and the intention for the first year is to go from Pole to Pole and test the full range of the vessel’s capabilities, onboard equipment and facilities in the widest range of ocean conditions. Throughout the year, scientific organisations, media outlets, government institutions, philanthropists and paying guests will gain access to the vessel and allow for a full evaluation of the yacht’s three modes of operations: research, expedition and charter.
REV Ocean’s research capabilities include seabed mapping, seabed coring (a technique for collecting core samples of the seabed sub-strata sediments), surveys using the remotely-operated vehicle and submarine, and sampling the water column in the twilight zone between 200 metres and 1,000 metres, where sea life with remarkable adaptations to the dimly lit waters thrive.
There’s no doubt that the scientific possibilities opened up by REV Ocean are truly thrilling, but perhaps equally exciting is the fact that a number of private charter guests will also be able to join upcoming missions. “It’s still early days in terms of specific bookings, but there has been tremendous interest and enthusiasm to participate in some kind of ‘yachting with purpose’,” explains Sarah Fraser, yacht relations manager at REV Ocean. “There is a new breed of charterer: one who has an enquiring mind, a sense of adventure and the inspiration to make the ocean a better place.”
Those who do join will have ample opportunity to get involved in the action. Guests will be taught how to operate the hydrophone to record the calls of humpback whales, and will have the chance to co-pilot the onboard ROV and submersible to search the seabed for rare and undiscovered marine biology and never-before-seen hydrothermal vents.
There’s also sonar equipment with which to discover geologic features and find new species. Coincidentally, the submersible is the deepest diving (2,300 metres) manned vehicle with a fully transparent acrylic sphere, and is one of a kind.
A core team of scientists on the vessel will also offer inspiring talks, and the 35-person cinema will have a giant screen for viewing live activity from the submarine, or for watching films at the guests’ request. Meanwhile, the sonar systems will be continuously mapping the bottom of the ocean, and guests will be able to have these visuals live-streamed to their cabins or watch activity on any of the large screens in the common areas.
Of course, like any charter yacht worth its salt there will be toys, but they will be eco-friendly and wind- and electric-powered, in keeping with the yacht’s mission, while all other products on board will be focused towards sustainability. “I am hoping that we can really influence the yacht industry in a very positive way, as people start to realise that it is possible to build an elegant and comfortable vessel sustainably, and with a purpose,” says Jensen.
“I’m inspired by the yachting industry’s recent efforts; it feels that there is a willingness to change, to upgrade build and operational practices and to invest in being part of the solution we so desperately need. “
But”, she continues, “we need to accelerate these ambitions.” Surely, there can be no bigger inspiration for those who are dragging their heels, than the mighty REV Ocean herself…
IN FOCUS: REV OCEAN
Construction of 182.9m REV Ocean began in 2018 in Tulcea, Romania, before the completed hull and superstructure were moved to Norway for the final construction phases in 2019. When delivered in 2022, the vessel will become the world’s largest superyacht. It can accommodate 90 people for 114 days to the polar regions – for longer trips extra stores can be provided in reefer containers on deck at 20 additional days per container fully loaded. The ratio of scientists/crew will differ depending on the mode she is travelling in, and she will be available for charter up to one third of the ship time per year. Here are some of REV Ocean’s standout numbers:
Gross tonnage: 17,440gt
Draught (full load): 5.5m
Max speed: 17.8 knots
Range: 21,120nm at 11 knots
This feature is taken from the September 2020 issue of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.