Nina Jensen, who’s worked for environmental organization WWF for the past 15 years and most recently led it, is quitting to take over the helm of what’s billed as the world’s largest research and expedition vessel (REV). It’s financed by oil- and seafood tycoon Kjell Inge Røkke, but Jensen stressed she won’t be working for his Aker conglomerate.
“This has nothing to do with Aker,” Jensen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). The vessel is a project undertaken at the “private initiative” of Røkke and his wife, Anne Grete Eidsvig, who both own the vessel through their Resource Group TRG AS, Jensen said. She called the project “a one-way channel where the money goes to research and expeditions directed at the sea.”
Jensen, who’s the sister of Norway’s Finance Minister Siv Jensen, is a marine biologist who said the offer to take command of the vessel presented “an opportunity that wasn’t possible to turn down.” She’s led WWF as its secretary general for the past five years, often at odds with her sister’s government over environmental and climate policy.
Now she’ll be in charge of a vessel, still under construction, that she believes can help launch a “gigantic rescue operation” for maritime life. Røkke’s project also aims to assemble leading maritime experts, global researchers, innovators and technology experts to find concrete and practical solutions for how to deal with plastics, pollution and garbage at sea. The project also aims to strengthen maritime research and offer new and inexperienced researchers access to research and resources.
“The ship will also function as a floating think-tank, where we can assemble leading maritime organizations and where they can contribute to research,” Jensen told NRK. “There are great unsolved mysteries in the seas, and unserved needs on the research front. The goal is to strengthen research, obtain more knowledge and strengthen commitment for the seas and really put them on the global agenda.”
Jensen said she believes Røkke, who’s long been active in both the seafood and offshore oil industries, “has a passion for the sea” and is now “concerned by what’s happening. He wants to contribute and this is an incredible initiative. I just wish more people in Røkke’s league would do the same, and I hope this can be an inspiration for more.”
WWF colleagues called Jensen an “exceptional leader,” with the news of her departure met “with both tears and applause, tears because we will miss her and applause because of her fantastic efforts on behalf of nature and the climate,” said WWF spokesperson Heidi Katrine Bang.