The road to “ NewRV ”
To conduct scientific research and comply with national and international monitoring requirements, many of the Belgian scientific institutes and universities regularly make use of RV Belgica – the Belgian oceanographic research vessel – to go out at sea. The sea-going scientists observe and count, fish and grab, measure and test, etc. and use a wide range of scientific tools to collect their data, that are analysed and translated to new insights and/or policy advice at a later stage. By doing so, the RV Belgica is not only relevant to scientists and policy makers, but also influences the everyday life of all Belgians, also of those who live inland. As a considerable amount of knowledge is required to keep our North Sea viable and profitable, it is in everyone’s interest that the deep blue motor of the North Sea keeps on humming, and that our understanding of our seas keeps growing. Consider for example sustainable fishing, wind energy, sand extraction and tourism, that are all economic sectors that profit in one way or another from the work carried out on board of RV Belgica.
After more than 33 years (RV Belgica was built in Temse in 1984) of watching over the fortunes of the North Sea for around 200 days at sea every year, it is clear to both the public and policymakers that a replacement for RV Belgica, for the time being nicknamed via its project name “ NewRV ”, is sorely needed. Building a new research vessel is the only way to further expand the scientific time series that were constructed in the Belgian part of the North Sea by the current RV Belgica, and to ensure that we can keep fulfilling the Belgian monitoring commitments. Also embarking on new scientific discoveries, and setting sail to areas outside the geographical scope of the other vessels that are available to science in Belgium or that cannot be reconciled in the ships’ agendas, will become difficult in absence of a RV Belgica-type research vessel.
After consultation of the scientific users, a feasibility study (including a conceptual design study) and tens of budgetary and technical information sessions, the Council of Ministers officially agreed with the replacement of RV Belgica by providing the necessary budgets (31st of March 2017) and launching the public tender (12th of June 2017). The “ NewRV ” will be a multidisciplinary oceanographic research vessel, offering room for more researchers and spending more time at sea on an annual basis (around 300 days per year). It will be built according to the strictest standards regarding energy use, emissions (green ship) and sound production (acoustically silent ship), and will be equipped with state-of-the-art acoustic underwater sensors that allow analysis of the water column (fauna included) as well as the bottom and substrate. The ship will also serve as a platform for European collaboration, and will be adapted to the existing modern European Marine Research Infrastructure (also opening up research opportunities for Belgian researchers, such as research that requires the use of Remotely Operated Vehicles, Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, etc.).
More details on the technical specifications of the “ NewRV ” can be consulted on the accompanying poster.
Details on the timing of the tender, design and build processes are displayed on the timeline below.
Agreement by Federal Belgian state to launch a feasibility study for the replacement or the modernization of the RV A962 Belgica
Scientific working groups
→ Only option: RV A962 Belgica needs to be replaced by “ NewRV ”
Agreement by Federal Belgian state with the outcome of the feasibility study and to launch a budget study for the replacement or the modernization of the RV A962 Belgica
Agreement by Federal Belgian state with the outcome of the budget study
→ Best option: RV A962 Belgica needs to be replaced by “ NewRV ”
Principle agreement by Federal Belgian state to replace RV A962 Belgica and to start up the tendering process via a cooperation between Defence, BELSPO & RBINS
31 March 2017
Agreement by Federal Belgian state to replace RV Belgica
12 June 2017
Launch of public tender
22 September 2017
Deadline submission of offers
End of 2017
Award of contract for design and build
January – August 2018
Detailed design by contracted shipyard
September 2018 – 2020
Build of “ NewRV ” by contracted shipyard
Commissioning of “ NewRV ”