16/12/2021 - Today, BELSPO, on behalf of the Federal Government, and the EWI Department – the Department for Economy, Science and Innovation – on behalf of the Flemish Government, signed an agreement framework regarding the deployment of their two research vessels. The framework regulates the reciprocity of the use of ship-time between Federal scientific institutions and Flemish scientific research centers. It also stipulates that the RV Simon Stevin and RV Belgica will continue to be made available free of charge to a wide range of users in the future.
Flanders and Belgium possess two research vessels. The RV Simon Stevin is managed by DAB Fleet, the Flemish government service responsible for managing ships used for governmental tasks, whereas the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) is responsible for the scientific coordination.
The RV Belgica falls under the Federal Public Planning Service for Science Policy (in short BELSPO) whereas the scientific coordination rests with the Directorate Natural Environment of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS), this in collaboration with the Naval Component of Defense and the private operator Genavir.
For several years, the demand for ship-time in the context of scientific research at sea has been high. The RV Simon Stevin and the RV Belgica have been working together for a long time to plan the annual requests in a complementary way. Both ships spend an average of 200 days at sea annually (the new Belgica will eventually be out to sea up to 300 days each year). The RV Simon Stevin mainly operates near the coast, whereas the RV Belgica sails the wider ocean. On September 4, 2020 (and with effect from January 1, 2021) the Flemish Government decided on the rules for the allocation of the right of use on the shipping time of the research vessel RV Simon Stevin as an indirect subsidy (subsidy in kind).
The decree signed by BELSPO and the EWI Department describes the application and allocation procedure for ship-time with the RV Simon Stevin. Initially, free ship-time will be granted to Flemish universities, colleges and research centers, as well as to entities of the Flemish Government that carry out ocean related research. However, a clause is provided that allows the use by a Belgian Federal Government or a Federal scientific institution, provided there is a broader framework of agreements in which the reciprocity of the use of ship-time is embedded.
With the new agreement framework in place, a more flexible use of the two ships is made possible and the optimal deployment of Belgian and Flemish research resources at sea is ensured. The important developments in the use of the sea ('blue economy') and the high-tech possibilities of modern marine research will benefit from this agreement framework. For marine researchers, this will provide an additional incentive to unravel the mysteries of our seas and ocean.
Flemish Minister for Innovation Hilde Crevits:“Flanders and the Flanders Marine Institute have a great deal of expertise in research and innovation in the blue economy. With the research vessel Simon Stevin, we conduct a lot of oceanographic research and train students from scientific and maritime courses and programmes. With this collaboration agreement, we ensure a wider access to our research vessels, which can only benefit the scientific insights and the expertise of our researchers.”
State Secretary in charge of Scientific Policy Thomas Dermine: "I am pleased to welcome the new RV Belgica in Belgium on December 13, 2021. With this state-of-the-art high-tech research vessel, we will be able to continue the research, training and monitoring activities carried out by the Belgian marine research community for the next 30 years. Besides, the ship will offer opportunities to study new research domains and disciplines. This will enable the Belgian research community to remain at the forefront of European and international marine scientific research. Moreover, by signing the cooperation agreement, the Federal (research) institutions, and in particular the RBINS, will be able to use the Flemish research vessel for coastal oceanographic activities."