The research vessel ‘Zeeleeuw’ was operational between 2000 and 2012 but was due for renewal. A new ship, the 'Simon Stevin', replaced from May 2012 onwards the 'Zeeleeuw'. The 'Zeeleeuw' was put at the disposal of the Flemish and international marine research community. The ship was used for samplings in the Belgian coastal waters and the Scheldt estuary.
The Fleet Division (Agency for Maritime and Coastal Services, MDK) operated the ‘Zeeleeuw’, beared the operational costs and supplied the crew. The VLIZ took care of the coordination of the scientific programme and managed the research equipment. A total of 1470 sailing hours were provided every year.
The ship was used for numerous research projects and monitoring of the coastal waters, but also offered possibilities for educational projects, like 'Planeet Zee' and 'Expedition Zeeleeuw'.