The research vessels Belgica and James Clark Ross, which were handed over to Ukraine by Belgium and Great Britain respectively, were given new names on Friday, 29 October 2021. This happened during a ceremony in their new Ukrainian home port Odessa. From now on, the ships will sail the seas under the names ‘Borys Aleksandrov’ and ‘Noosphere’.
The renaming ceremony was held in the Odessa seaport, in the presence of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The ceremony was part of a presidential working visit to the city. For Belgium, the honours included Mr Patrick Roose, Director of the Operational Direction Natural Environment of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS).
From her maiden voyage in 1984 until her last scientific campaign in March 2021, the RBINS was responsible for the budgetary management, scientific instrumentation and planning of the RV A962 Belgica’s scientific campaigns. The Federal Science Policy was the proud owner of the ship, and the Belgian Navy provided the crew, operational support and a berth in the home port of Zeebrugge.
After the handover to the Ukrainian authorities on 13 September 2021, a short training period of the new crew and a successful transit to Odessa (during which a complex scientific programme was also carried out), the ship – together with her former British colleague – is today the start of a new Ukrainian scientific fleet. The country has not had such a fleet before. The transfer to Ukraine was made possible by a joint EU/UNDP project, “European Union for Improving Environmental Monitoring of the Black Sea (EU4EMBLAS)”.
It was President Zelenskyy himself who announced the new names of the research vessels. The Belgica was renamed in honour of the famous Ukrainian marine biologist Borys Aleksandrov, Doctor and Professor of Biological Sciences and also former director of the Institute of Marine Biology of the National Academy of Sciences. Two years ago, on 4 December 2019, he was tragically killed in a terrible fire at 25 Troitskaya Street in Odessa.
After the renaming ceremony, a roundtable discussion took place on Belgian-Ukrainian marine cooperation, blue economy, and further development of marine monitoring, initiated by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine.
The British icebreaker James Clark Ross was renamed ‘Noosphere’. This ship will make marine research near the Ukrainian Antarctic station Akademik Vernadsky possible again for Ukrainian scientists. During the ceremony, President Zelenskyy spoke directly to scientists currently working at this polar station.
The noosphere is supposed to be a new, higher stage in the evolution of the biosphere, connected with the development of society, which has a profound influence on natural processes. Whatever the case may be, the development of the noosphere doctrine is particularly associated with the name of Vladimir Vernadsky, the first president of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences.