AkzoNobel yacht paints

AMSTERDAM – AkzoNobel, the Dutch paints and coatings multinational, is sponsoring an international mission in which a manned oceanographic platform will drift around Antarctica collecting climate data, starting in December 2023.

The zero-emission project is the brainchild of French explorer and environmentalist Jean-Louis Etienne. The 100-meter tall Polar Pod’ will be propelled by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, a vast reserve of marine biodiversity.

Polar Pod righting

AkzoNobel will sponsor the 1,000-ton platform for the next five years, from its construction through to the end of its three-year mission. CEO Thierry Vanlancker says AkzoNobel goes “to the ends of the earth to help our customers” become more sustainable. The Antarctic mission dovetails with AkzoNobel’s “People. Planet. Paint.” sustainability strategy that aims to ultimately become a zero-waste company.

Polar Pod upright, partially submderged

AkzoNobel spokesman Joost Ruempel said it is too early to identify what products or technologies will result from the scientific mission. AkzoNobel markets a dozen or so International-branded paints and coatings for the yacht building and offshore sectors.

But Jean Michel Gauthier, Director of AkzoNobel’s Marine and Protective Coatings business, says, “as an industry leader in sustainability and a global market leader in marine and yacht coatings, lowering our environmental impact on the planet and contributing toward ocean preservation are key aspects of our strategy,”

Semi-submerged Polar Pod, taller than Statue of Liberty

The Polar Pod can accommodate eight people in six months of autonomy and will be shadowed by a supply vessel as it drifts across the southern reaches of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. It will be towed horizontally to its first study area. There, it will be tilted upright by filling ballast tanks with seawater. Most of the upright structure will be submerged.

The data it will collect will be digested by oceanographers, climatologists and biologists at 43 research institutions in 12 nations.

Studies will focus on air/ocean exchange measurements related to CO2, wave dynamics; plankton collection and evaluation of the impact of acidification; acoustic inventory of marine fauna; validation of satellite measurements and aerial observation of marine life.