RV A962 Belgica


This page contains facts and figures about the former Belgian research vessel RV A962 Belgica (1984-2021).

The first dedicated research vessel


On 7 November 1979, the Belgian government gave the go-ahead for the construction of the first national oceanographic vessel. The choice fell on a 51-metre multidisciplinary ship that could remain at sea for a long period of time with a large number of scientists. Previously, marine scientific research could only take place on ships with other missions, and the marine scientists were rather limited in their possibilities. At the end of 1982, the Boelwerf in Temse started the construction of the new ship, which could be christened by Queen Fabiola on 11 October 1984. A new era had begun for Belgian marine research.


A unique cooperation model


The RV A962 Belgica was owned by the Belgian State, represented by the Federal Science Policy (BELSPO), and was placed in the Belgian Naval Fleet (Defence) that provided the crew, the operational support and the home port in Zeebrugge. The Operational Direction Natural Environment (OD Nature) of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) was responsible for the budgetary management, scientific instrumentation and planning of the vessel's scientific campaigns. Thanks to this successful cooperation, which will also largely be continued for the new Belgica, the RV A962 Belgica was able to provide up to 200 sailing days per year. The vessel had a range of 5000 nautical miles with an autonomy of 20 days.


Scientific achievements


For 37 years, the RV A962 Belgica monitored the quality of the North Sea and was a sailing laboratory for fundamental research by Belgian universities and scientific institutes. Due to its polyvalent character, the Belgian oceanographic vessel was also used by foreign teams with whom cooperation is foreseen in the framework of European research programmes. The international campaigns carried out by RV A962 Belgica have, for example, led to the discovery of cold water coral mounds in the southwest of Ireland and mud volcanoes off the coast of Morocco, and have also been important in defining sustainable options for the exploitation of biotic (e.g. fish) and abiotic (e.g. sand) resources. The research carried out thanks to this ship is thus important for the management of the North Sea but also for the fundamental understanding of the nearby seas and oceans, and has allowed Belgium to punch above its weight class in terms of marine research and monitoring, marine spatial planning and blue economy. The ship also gave thousands of students the opportunity to gain their first sea experience.


A bright future

After more than a million kilometres travelled and more than 1,000 scientific campaigns, the need to replace the RV A962 Belgica became increasingly urgent. Only by building a new vessel can Belgium remain true to its ambitions: be active at the forefront of marine science, exploration and blue economy, and meet its national and international monitoring obligations. However, this did not mean that the RV A962 Belgica had to be written off. So it was good news that in 2021 it could be agreed to give the ship a second life under the Ukrainian flag, with the core of its operations in the Black Sea. At the end of September 2021, RV A962 Belgica departed for her new home port of Odessa, where she was renamed RV Borys Aleksandrov at the end of October 2021.