The Belgian Navy’s 34-year-old research vessel will be replaced by a larger and better-equipped successor, Belgium’s Science Policy Office (BELSPO) announced in a press conference on Tuesday.
The announcement was made by Belgian secretary of state for science policy Zuhal Demir and defense minister Steven Vandeput.
Belgium’s secretary of state for science Elke Sleurs announced in 2017 that the BELSPO-owned R/V Belgica has reached an end of its service life and needs a replacement.
The yet-unnamed new vessel will be built by Spain-based Freire Shipyard under a contract from June 2018. Work under the contract is expected to be completed by October 2020.
Designed by Rolls-Royce Marine and measuring approximately 70 meters in length, the new research vessel will be some 20 meters longer than its predecessor and will have more berthing space for scientists (up to 28). It will also feature equipment that will allow it to conduct research at depths of up to 5,00 meters. Ice reinforcement will allow the vessel to operate in the Arctic Circle during the summer.
The new vessel will have an autonomy of 30 days and will provide some 300 days of at sea operations. According to BELSPO, the contact for the construction of the new vessel is worth 54 million euros.
The R/V will cater for the requirements of the Belgian marine scientific community when performing advanced marine research and education at sea – today and in the coming years. This will include research within the fields of geology and sedimentology, fisheries, biology, chemistry, oceanography (including meteorology). In addition, the vessel will be part of hydrography campaigns.
Commissioned in 1984, the 34-year-old R/V Belgica is owned by the Belgian Science Policy Office (BELSPO) and is managed by the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS). The Belgian Navy provides the crew, operational support and a dock at the vessel’s home port of Zeebrugge.
Belgian scientists use the ship to carry out maritime scientific research. Activities include the monitoring of the water quality of the North Sea, where scientists continuously collect data on the biological, chemical, physical, geological and hydrodynamic processes in the region.