The Norwegian government decided in September 2012 to fund construction of a new research vessel. The vessel was built in Spain, arrived Bergen 10 January 2017, and was named by prime minister Erna Solberg in Oslo 24 March 2017.
"Dr. Fridtjof Nansen" is the third Norwegian marine research vessel with this name. The vessel is named after Fridtjof Nansen (1861–1930), famous for his crossing of the Greenland and the "Fram" expedition. Nansen was oceanographer and professor in zoology. He was also one of the founders of ICES (the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea). In 1922, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his humanitarian efforts during WW1.
The vessel is owned by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), but is manned and operated by IMR. "Dr. Fridtjof Nansen" operates mostly along the west coast of Africa, supporting a number of bilateral science programmes between Norway and West African countries. From 2018, the vessel will also operate in Asia.
Her maiden cruise went from Casablanca in West Africa, May 2017. She returned back to Norway in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but could once again set course for Africa in October 2021.
The building process can be seen via the project's website