Ukraine renames vessel for Black Sea Environmental monitoring

October 29, 2021

The Kingdom of Belgium, the European Union and the UN Development Programme joined efforts to support Ukraine by transferring the oceanographic research vessel Belgica, which arrived in Odesa earlier this month.

Photo: Victor Komorin / EU4EMBLAS

Odesa, 29 October 2021 – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at a ceremony in Odesa today revealed the new name of the oceanographic research vessel Belgica, which was earlier transferred to Ukraine to carry out scientific research in the Black Sea.

The vessel has been named the “Borys Aleksandrov,” after the famous Ukrainian marine biologist and director of the Institute of Marine Biology. Following the official renaming event, the issue of marine pollution and how to best use the vessel was explored at a round table “Future of the marine monitoring in Ukraine and blue economy, sponsored by the EU and UNDP.

The vessel’s transfer was made possible by a joint EU/UNDP project, “European Union for Improving Environmental Monitoring of the Black Sea (EU4EMBLAS).” As a follow-up, joint Belgium-Ukrainian surveys are planned both in the Black Sea and North-East Atlantic regions.

H.E. Ambassador Matti Maasikas, Head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine, said the European Union was pleased to be able to help Ukraine monitor the environmental state of the Black Sea.

“Like Ukraine, two EU Member states – Bulgaria and Romania – border the Black Sea,” Maasikas said. “This sea connects us, and it is in our shared interests that we ensure its environmental condition is expertly monitored. The EU is pleased to be able to help Ukraine in this endeavour.”

The former “Belgica” was the flagship of Belgium’s environmental monitoring programme in the northeast Atlantic until a new research vessel, also named “Belgica,” was built. The Belgian government then decided to provide the fully operational ship to the Ukrainian Scientific Centre of the Ecology of the Sea, as Ukraine did not hitherto possess an operational vessel suitable for sea monitoring.  

Сountries with shorelines around the Black Sea are now taking concerted action to preserve its ecological integrity through improved monitoring and enforcement of environmental regulations.  They also are being supported by a number of countries far from the Black Sea, including Belgium – which, on 13 September, transferred the Belgica to Ukraine to reinforce its capacity for monitoring. The vessel arrived at its new home, the Ukrainian port of Odesa, on 21 October.

UNDP Ukraine Deputy Resident Representative Manal Fouani said UNDP fully supports this strategic regional partnership with the EU to reinforce the marine monitoring in the Black Sea under the EU4EMBLAS project. “In the context of this project,” she said “we will provide equipment for the vessel along with the necessary training for the scientists to benefit from the latest advanced technologies to identify environmental threats and explore possible solutions.”

Roman Abramovsky, the Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine, said that in few days, on 31 October, Black Sea countries would celebrate the Black Sea Day, and the vessel was a precious gift to Ukraine to mark this date.

“Besides, it is very symbolic that this legendary Belgian vessel, which Ukraine got from the Kingdom of Belgium this September, is named after Borys Aleksandrov – a unique person, a Ukrainian scientist and researcher who devoted all his life to marine studies,” Abramovsky said. “Soon the Borys Aleksandrov will go in its first scientific trip to conduct monitoring in the Black Sea, and later in the Azov Sea as well.”

H. E. Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium, Alex Lenaerts, said he was delighted that his initiative to transfer the RV Belgica to Ukraine had been supported by the Belgian federal authorities, and that the vessel had come to Ukraine during the 30th anniversary year of the country's independence.

“RV Belgica’s laboratories onboard provided legendary service for maritime research science of Belgium,” Lenaerts said. “I’m happy that it will now serve for the benefit of Ukrainian researchers in the environmental monitoring of the Black and Azov Seas from.”

It is expected that the vessel will start its monitoring activities in the Black Sea before the end of this year.

Background: The EU/UNDP project “European Union for Improving Environmental Monitoring in the Black Sea” (EU4EMBLAS) is the fourth phase of the assistance project that has been operational since 2014.  The initiative is funded by the EU to help Ukraine and other riparian countries to 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.

Photos: Oleksandr Zakletsky / EU4EMBLAS (photos 1-3); shutterstock (photo 4)