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New oceanographic research vessel Belgica joins Belgian Navy

Belgica, the new oceanographic research vessel being built by Freire Shipyard for the Belgium Navy, arrived in Belgium on 14 December. (Jorn Urbain/Belgian MoD)

The Belgian Navy's new multi-purpose oceanographic research vessel Belgica arrived at its home base in Zeebrugge on 13 December, the Belgian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced.

Belgica was built by Freire Shipyard in Vigo, Spain, under a contract awarded in 2018. The construction programme was sponsored by the Belgian MoD, the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, and the Belgian Science Policy Office.

Built to ice class 1C, Belgica will carry out research and survey tasks in the North and Mediterranean seas and beyond. According to the Belgian MoD, it will depart for its first deployment to the Mediterranean in January 2022.

Laid down in March 2019 and launched in February 2020, Belgica has an overall length of 71.4 m, a beam of 16.8 m, and a top speed of 13 kt.

The new ship will carry a permanent crew of 14 (three Belgian Navy officers and 11 civilian employees), and will operate under the management of French shipping company Genavir. In addition, it can accommodate 28 scientists on board.

The vessel's sonar suite includes shallow (EM2040) and deep-water (EM 304) multibeam echosounders, scientific and split-beam wideband echosounders, acoustic Doppler current profilers, sub-bottom profilers, and fish sonar.

There is also space for up to seven 20 ft containers on the aft deck and the ship can embark unmanned underwater and aerial vehicles.

Equipment on board includes cranes, winches, and launch and recovery systems for scientific equipment, nets, and boats.

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