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Research Vessel Belgica

The oceanographic research vessel Belgica is owned by the Belgian Science Policy Office (BELSPO) on behalf of the Belgian State.

The Operational Directorate Natural Environment (OD Nature of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS), is responsible for the management of the ship and its scientific equipment. OD Nature is also responisble for the planning and the organisation of the scientific campaigns at sea. The Belgian Navy provides the crew and takes care of the operational exploitation as well as the moorage in Zeebrugge, the Belgica's home port.

The ship was commissioned in 1984 and baptized by H.R.H Queen Fabiola. Its overall length is 50.9m and overall width 10m.

The Belgica monitors the quality of the North Sea by continuously gathering all sorts of data on the biological, chemical, physical, geological and hydrodynamic processes taking place there. The ship is also floating laboratory for researchers from universities and scientific institutes of Belgium in their quest for a better understanding of the structure and functioning of the North Sea ecosystem.

The Belgica, thanks to its polyvalence, meets not only the needs of Belgian teams active in marine research but as well as those of foreign teams with which collaborations are established in the framework of European and international research programmes.

The Belgica acts also an evaluation platform of the impact of maritime accidents on the marine environment. If a sea accident occurs in Belgian waters the course of the Belgica is immediately changed if needed and the ship is sent to the site of the accident. Its main task is then to collect samples and measurements to assess the impact of the incident on the marine environment.

The use of the ship is very intensive. Each year, the Belgica spends approximately 3.250 effective hours at sea, which represents, for the scientists on board, a total activity of around 35.000 man-hours. Approximately 210 researchers, of whom 50 foreign researchers, take part in one or several research campaigns of the Belgica each year.

The RV Belgica has celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2014. For this occasion a big campaign has been set up (How big is Belgica

After traveling more than 1 million kilometers (25 times around the Earth!) and 37 years of service, the RV Belgica has seen better days. On 25 March 2021, the last scientific campaign was carried out.

On 13 September 2021, an agreement was signed for the transfer of the research vessel Belgica from the Kingdom of Belgium to Ukraine. This in the frame of a cooperation agreement signed in July 2021 between the Belgian Science Policy Office (BELSPO), the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) and the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine. The RV Belgica departed for Odessa, her new home port, on 16 September 2021 for a second life in the Black Sea.
(Press Release: L'emblématique Belgica retrouve une seconde vie en tant que navire de recherche ukrainien -  Iconische Belgica krijgt tweede leven als Oekraïens onderzoeksschip).

This is why the Federal Government has decided to build a new state-of-the-art ocean research vessel in 2019, which will be operational from the end of 2021.

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