Ukrainian scientists will use the ship to monitor the environmental state of the Black Sea, adding to data on pollution, biodiversity, and the spread of antibiotic resistance in marine animals
Odesa, Ukraine, 21 October 2021 – The marine research ship Belgica completed its voyage of 8,600 kilometres from Zeebrugge, Belgium to Odesa, Ukraine, today, to start its new mission of monitoring the environment in the Black Sea.
Ukrainian scientists will use the ship to monitor the environmental state of the Black Sea, adding to data on pollution, biodiversity, and the spread of antibiotic resistance in marine animals.
Belgium transferred the vessel to Ukraine (the Ukrainian Research Centre for Marine Ecology) under a Memorandum of Understanding between the Belgian Federal Office of Science and Policy, the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of Ukraine, which was signed in July this year.
The transfer of the vessel, as well as the ship’s current mission, has been organised and funded by the EU via the project "European Union for Improving the Environmental Monitoring of the Black Sea" (EU4EMBLAS) implemented by UNDP. As part of the vessel’s transfer, the project supported the ambitious "Monitoring the Three European Seas" (North, Mediterranean and Black) scientific programme.
Ambassador Matti Maasikas, Head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine, said the future work of the Belgica would add to the body of scientific knowledge about the Black Sea, and also raise public awareness about the environmental problems it and other European Seas face.
“With the Belgica, Ukraine will be able to make a valuable contribution to protecting the Black Sea,” Maasikas said. “Countries in Europe and around the world ultimately depend on the seas and oceans, and the state of our marine environment must be the concern for all of us. This includes Ukraine, a large and important maritime state.”
Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine Roman Abramovsky said that Ukraine could now resume research and reinforce environmental monitoring of the Black and Azov Seas, as well as successfully implement EU directives on the marine environment.
"I'm grateful to the Kingdom of Belgium for making such an important gift to Ukraine, and grateful to the EU4EMBLAS project, EU Joint Research Center, and Ukrainian Scientific Center of Ecology of the Sea for our cooperation," said Abramovsky.
On its latest voyage the ship was operated by a Ukrainian crew, with Ukrainian and international scientists working on board. During the trip from Belgium to Ukraine, the researchers assessed the presence of floating debris, took samples of seawater and sediments for unique screening for tens of thousands of contaminants and micro-plastics, and dissolved DNA from the environment to assess biodiversity and analyse the spread of antibiotic resistance genes in marine animals.
Commenting on the handover of the vessel, UNDP Resident Representative Dafina Gercheva said the Belgica would be essential for Ukraine’s efforts to protect the Black Sea from further environmental damage.
“We know from earlier research that tonnes of plastic waste flows into the Black Sea from Ukraine’s rivers,” said Gercheva. “The work of this ship will help us monitor this situation and assess the progress we make in tackling this challenge.”
The EU/UNDP project “European Union for Improving Environmental Monitoring in the Black Sea” (EU4EMBLAS) is the fourth phase of the assistance project since 2014 funded by the EU to help Ukraine and other surrounding countries protect the Black Sea. The key activities of the project included open seas surveys, large-scale collection of environmental data using novel monitoring techniques, and public awareness-raising in the Black Sea region.
Among the key achievements of the previous phases were the development of well populated Black Sea Water Quality Database, initial assessment of the environmental status of the studied parts of the Black Sea according to the requirements of EU Marine Framework Strategy Directive (MSFD; open sea) and Water Framework Directive (WFD; coastal regions).
The current project phase complements the needs to further develop national capacities – technical and personal, to implement marine environment monitoring programmes, in line with the Bucharest Convention and EU reporting requirements. It provides further technical assistance focused on establishing modern systems and facilities for environmental monitoring, capacity building, assessment of environmental status in line with EU MSFD/WFD, and public awareness raising on the Black Sea environmental issues.
Yuliia Samus, UNDP Communications Team Leader, firstname.lastname@example.org