On 13 September, the Belgian government signed an agreement for the transfer of the legendary research vessel Belgica to Ukraine to reinforce its monitoring of the marine environment in the Black Sea region.
The vessel has been a flagship of Belgium’s environmental monitoring in the North-East Atlantic until a new research vessel, also named ‘Belgica’, was built. It was then decided to provide the fully operational ship to the Ukrainian Scientific Centre of the Ecology of the Sea (UkrSES), considering that Ukraine does not have any operational vessel suitable for sea monitoring. As a follow-up, joint Belgium-Ukrainian surveys are planned both in the Black Sea and North-East Atlantic regions.
“After nearly one million kilometres covered and more than 1,000 scientific campaigns to increase knowledge of the seas, Belgium bids farewell to the research vessel Belgica today,” State Secretary for Economic Recovery and Strategic Investments, Thomas Dermine, said.
In the next few days, the vessel will start its cruise from Zeebrugge, Belgium to its new homeport in Odesa, Ukraine. During the ship’s 8,600-km-long journey, scientists will assess floating marine macrolitter, collect samples of seawater and bottom sediments for analysis of the wide range of pollutants, and perform a unique screening of the presence of more than tens of thousands of emerging contaminants, microplastics, environmental DNA for assessing biodiversity and microbial DNA revealing the presence of antibiotic resistance genes.
This scientific programme, titled the ‘Cruise of Three European Seas’ (North-East Atlantic, Mediterranean and the Black Seas), as well as the transfer of the vessel, is organised and financed by the EU/UNDP project ‘European Union for Improving Environmental Monitoring of the Black Sea’ (EU4EMBLAS), and supported scientifically by the European Commission Joint Research Centre and UkrSES.
“With EU4EMBLAS and many other programmes to support and accelerate the green transition, the EU continues to be ready to support improved environmental protection and economic and social resilience in the Black Sea basin,” said Lawrence Meredith, for Neighbourhood East and Institution Building, European Commission.
It is expected that the vessel will arrive in Ukraine in the middle of October 2021, where it will be renamed, and start its activities in the Black Sea region.
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