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This paper proposes a genetic algorithm (GA) for path planning of an autonomous underwater vehicle in an ocean environment characterized by strong currents and enhanced space-time variability. The goal is to find a safe path that takes the vehicle from its starting location to a mission-specified destination, minimizing the energy cost. The GA includes novel genetic operators that ensure the convergence to the global minimum even in cases where the structure (in space and time) of the current field implies the existence of different local minima. The performance of these operators is discussed. The proposed algorithm is suitable for situations in which the vehicle has to operate energy-exhaustive missions.