Colombia inaugurates Oceanographic Research Center and ship

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The ARC Simón Bolívar in the dry dock of Cartagena. Photo: MinDefensa

The historic port of Cartagena is home to the country’s new Caribbean Oceanographic and Hydrographic Research Center, inaugurated on Saturday by President Iván Duque and Defense Minister Diego Molano, and which serves as an operational base for the protection and conservation of Colombia’s Caribbean waters. The Center will also assist the Navy against transnational threats that include drugs and wildlife trafficking, illegal fishing, as well as the exploitation of ecosystems like mangroves, coral reefs, wetlands, and estuaries.

“The main goal is to provide an adequate space for maritime and hydrographic scientists from the defense sector to develop research projects focusing on Colombia’s natural and strategic resources,” highlighted Defense Minister Molano. “I hope that the Center becomes a benchmark for Colombia as an institution that promotes research and innovation for the protection of the sovereignty of our oceans and seas,” he said.

Following the inauguration ceremony, the national government christened the Navy’s Scientific-Marine Research Vessel (BICM), built in the Cotecmar dry docks, and named ARC Simón Bolívar. The ARC Simón Bolívar is the largest and best-equipped ship ever built on Colombian soil and hits the seas in December 2022 as the Navy’s front line environmental crusader.

Weighing 3,200 tons and built to navigate the toughest sea conditions with its reinforced hull, including the Antarctic’s ice sheets and dangerous currents where the Colombian Navy has conducted several research missions, the ARC Simón Bolívar has a crew of 55 and can transport 30 researchers on a campaign lasting four to six weeks. The hydrographic vessel will also transport Bell 412 and AS365 Dauphin helicopters.

“This is a historic milestone of technology, naval development, and the strategic protection of our territory,” stated President Duque. “The ARC Simón Bolívar also shows that our technology is crossing borders, validating that Colombia can be, with naval technology, one of the most important leaders in the region.”