Ukraine received as a gift from Belgium a research vessel “Belgica”, which will study the waters of the Black and Azov Seas. “Belgica” will replace the ship “Professor Vodyanytsky”, which remained in the occupied Crimea.
Photo credit: Belgian Navy & KBIN
The Belgian government handed over the ship free of charge to Ukraine in accordance with a memorandum of understanding between the Office of Federal Scientific Policy, the Royal Institute of Natural Sciences of Belgium, and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of Ukraine. The official handover ceremony took place on September 13 in the port of Zeebrugge with Ukrainian and Belgian officials, representatives of the European Commission, and experts.
Since 2014, Ukraine has not had its own research vessel. The only such ship – “Professor Vodyanytsky”, built-in 1976, which belonged to the Kovalevsky Institute of Biology of the Southern Seas of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, located in Sevastopol – remained in the Russian-occupied Crimea. Therefore, all these years, Ukraine has not had the proper opportunity to monitor and study the Black Sea. Now these and other scientific tasks will be performed by “Belgica”.
After more than a million kilometers traveled and more than 1,000 scientific campaigns aimed at increasing knowledge of the seas, Belgium today bids farewell to the research vessel Belgica. As a navigation laboratory, the vessel has been the flagship of Belgian marine sciences for 37 years. It is with heartache that we say goodbye to her, but I am very happy that the ship has a second life thanks to our cooperation with the Ukrainian Scientific Center for Ecology of the seaThomas Dermine, State Secretary for Scientific Policy, Recovery Program and Strategic Investments at Belgian Federal Government
This ship was built in 1984, it is called a floating laboratory. The ship is almost 60 meters long, 10 meters wide, has a displacement of about 1.2 tons, speed – 12 nautical knots, or 22 kilometers per hour, the ship can accommodate 15 crew members and 16 scientists. “Belgica” is equipped with oceanographic equipment and several laboratories, according to the website of the Royal Institute of Natural Sciences of Belgium. The last mission of the Belgica was on March 25, 2021.
Belgica is expected to arrive in Odessa in mid-October. There, the ship will be given a new name, and it will begin its activities in the waters of the Black Sea, and later the Sea of Azov.
The ship currently has a Ukrainian crew, as well as Ukrainian and international scientists. During the trip, scientists will assess the presence of floating debris, take samples of seawater and sediments for a special screening for the existence of tens of thousands of substances.
In particular, contaminants and microplastics, DNA will be isolated from the environment to assess biodiversity and analyze the spread of antibiotic resistance genes in marine microorganisms. This ambitious scientific program called “Monitoring of the Three European Seas” (North, Mediterranean and Black), as well as the transfer of the vessel, is organized and funded by the EU-UNDP project “European Union to Improve Environmental Monitoring of the Black Sea” (EU4EMBLAS) with research support EU and UkrNCEM.
We are very grateful to the Belgian side for this so important gift to Ukraine. With the help of RV “Belgica”, we plan to resume surveillance in the Black Sea as of this yearRoman Abramovsky, the Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources
The ship is expected to reach Odessa on the eve of Black Sea Day – October 31 – and will be the best gift to date. Upon his arrival, the process of renaming the vessel and preparing for the first voyage will begin.