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New Research Vessel

The oceanographic research vessel Belgica has celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2014. Although the RV Belgica continuous to perform scientific activities for ca. 180 days per year, the renewal of the ship should be envisaged. The lifetime of research vessels is estimated to 30 years.

For this reason steps were undertaken to study the different options for its replacement.
In 2009 the Belgian Science Policy Office commissioned a feasibility study to Techmar international (in collaboration with ULg) on the purchase options for a new oceanographic research ship or modernisation of the existing oceanographic research vessel.

The main conclusions of this study are:

  • the Belgica is in general good condition however the equipment is faced with obsolescence and the general condition  of the facilities is of concern (hidden corrosion, air conditioning, ...). The ship also faces a lack of space since it is overloaded with scientific and communication equipment
  • the demands of the scientific community show the need for a new ship to be a multipurpose research vessel (for hydrography, geology, biology, oceanography, fisheries, environmental sampling, etc.) with dynamic positioning capabilities, with an autonomy of 4 weeks, with more space and with the ability to handle and deploy large-scale equipment (AUV, ROV, coring, etc.) and with a minimal ice class;
  • with regard to the replacement options and budgets: the modernisation of the Belgica is for technical, statutory and financial reasons not recommended; the only coherent option is the building of a new oceanographic research vessel.

In 2013-2014 a financing study was performed by BELSPO and RBINS-OD Nature to get an update of the building and operating costs of a new Belgian research vessel. This study was based on the scientific needs as were expressed by the Belgian scientific community in the feasibility study. Furthermore, several management options and collaborations with neighboring countries for the build and exploitation of the new research vessel were investigated.

The financing study confirmed that the modernisation of the current RV Belgica is financially, technically and scientifically not an option and that the build of a new ship is the only coherent solution. The cost of a new research vessel is estimated at 54,45 MEURO, including VAT.

The conclusions were presented to the Federal Government in April 2014.

On the 28th of October 2016, the Ministerial Council agreed to replace the research vessel RV Belgica, after a proposal by Secretary of State for Science Policy Elke Sleurs and Secretary of State for the North Sea Philippe De Backer.

On the 31st of March 2017, the Council of Ministers agreed to launch the public procurement for the purchase of a new research vessel to replace the RV Belgica, after a proposal by Secretary of State for Science Policy Zuhal Demir.

The tender for the purchase of a new research vessel to replace the RV Belgica was published on 12 June 2017.

On 22nd December 2017 and 16 March 2018 the Council of Ministers agreed to award the contract for the building of a new multidisciplinary research vessel to replace our RV Belgica to Freire Shipyard (Spain, Vigo). The contract has started on 8 june 2018 for 28 months. The first 8 months will be dedicated to the design of the ship (by Rolls Royce Marine AS). The start of the construction is scheduled for early 2019 and the delivery of the ship by the end of 2020.

For further information on our new research vessel and to follow the built of it see the NewRV website (

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