MOSCOW—Norwegian self-made billionaire and investor Kjell Inge Roekke is planning to donate a large proportion of his estimated USD 2 billion wealth into funding a research ship that will remove plastic from the ocean. However some campaigners are still at wars with Roekke due to his involvement in oil exploration, which they say helped destroy the sea.
Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten reported that Roekke, a former fisherman who made his money in the oil industry, will invest the majority of his fortune into the construction and operation of a ship for research on ocean conditions as well as the clean-up of the sea.
The vessel, which will operate in partnership with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), an international non-governmental organization, will have a crew of 30 and also offer space for up to 60 scientific staff.
“I’ll give back to society the lion’s share of what I’ve earned. This ship is a part of that,” Roekke said in a recent interview.
Roekke did not reveal the cost of the vessel or say how much the donations would equate to, but the billionaire is the majority shareholder of the holding company Akar ASA, which controls oil firm Aker BP and oil industry suppliers Aker Solutions.
The vessel will remove from and melt up to five tons of plastic a day.
“Sea covers 70% of Earth’s surface and much is not researched,” Roekke said.
However not every agrees with Roekke and his aims to continue with oil exploration. The WWF states that oil and gas exploration is probing the Earth’s most remote and inhospitable places, employing new and often unproven technologies to extract hydrocarbons from deep within the Earth.
“Oil spills can occur from blowouts, pipeline leaks or failures, or shipping accidents. These spills pose a serious threat to ecosystems-whether they happen in the Congo Basin, the Timor Sea, or in the Arctic. Furthermore, in the Arctic, there is no proven, effective method to clean up oil in ice,” an online statement from the WWF read.
Nina Jensen of the WWF said she was “far apart” from Mr. Roekke’s views on oil exploration and said she would “continue to challenge [him] when we disagree” but Jensen said she was excited about the ship project.
“I’ve never heard of a similar commitment, the dream is to find a way of solving the great challenges of the sea, such as extreme plastic pollution” Jensen said in a recent interview.
This is not the only good Roekke has done — his wife and him already have a foundation for giving scholarships to postgraduate students.
And Roekke is not alone in his philanthropic quest, by giving away large sums of money; he will join fellow billionaire philanthropists, such as Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg.