The Belem will carry the Olympic flame in 2024 between Athens and Marseille.

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The wintering period will be propitious to restore the hull of the Belem, a ship classified as a historical monument since 1984. This delicate operation is 40% financed (more than €680,000) by the DRAC. The work is carried out in dry dock in the Saint-Nazaire shipyards by the Eiffage Énergie Systèmes group under the scientific and technical control of the DRAC.

An emblematic boat of Nantes' naval history

Built by the Dubigeon shipyards in Chantenay in 1896, the Belem was commissioned by Nantes-based shipowner Fernand Crouan. The ship is initially dedicated to trade: it carries out thirty-three transatlantic campaigns to Brazil then to Guyana and the West Indies. From Brazil, he brought cocoa for the Meunier and Caribbean chocolate shops, rum and sugar.


In 1914, the famous three-mast was bought by the Duke of Westminster who transformed it into a pleasure yacht. In 1921, the Irish brewer Sir Arthur Guinness acquired it. He sailed around the world aboard the ship, then renamed Fantôme.

The Belem remains today one of the oldest three-masts in Europe and the last three-mast French steel-hulled boat. Each year, he sails several months in Europe under the authorization of the Ministry of Culture through his decentralized service, the DRAC of the Pays de la Loire.

Then, after having belonged to the Cini Foundation, the National Union of Savings Banks buys the Belem and donates it to the Foundation which bears his name. The latter has been the current owner since 1980.

An important restoration monitored and financed by the DRAC Pays de la Loire

Since its classification as Historical Monuments in 1984, the Belem has been the subject of numerous restorations, authorized and subsidized by the State, which have made it possible to safeguard this Nantes and national symbol.

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A jewel of the sailing navy of the late 19th century, the Belem is distinguished by its riveted metal hull that was to guarantee the solidity, speed and manoeuvrability of the boat. The hold, mainly original, is now in poor condition. Worn and corroded, it must be replaced so that the vessel can continue to navigate. The operation, very delicate, consists in opening the hull to extract the old metal block and insert the new one.


The restoration of the hull must be carried out in dry dock in the shipyards of Saint Nazaire according to a constrained schedule, that of wintering 2022-2023 (from December 2022 to April 2023). The DRAC, responsible for the scientific and technical control of the heritage protected under the title of historical monuments, has closely supported the Belem Foundation in the establishment of the work programme by providing its expertise and participating in their financing.

This large-scale work has a cost of €1,723,705 excluding tax, which the DRAC des Pays de la Loire subsidizes to the tune of 40%, or €689,482. This complex restoration is carried out by the Eiffage Energy Systems group under the scientific and technical control of the DRAC of the Pays de la Loire.

An active policy to support maritime and river heritage

Since the 1980s, the department has taken on issues related to industrial heritage, particularly maritime and river heritage, which has resulted in a wave of protections for historic monuments. In the Pays de la Loire, 28 boats are protected (military, prestige, fishing, regatta, pleasure boats, training boats, etc.).

The DRAC accompanies each year restoration work on these monuments that continue to navigate. The role of the DRAC is to ensure the preservation of the historic monument while promoting as much as possible the maintenance of use. In recent years, important restorations have been carried out on the Belem (restoration of the large and small roof), the Chantenay (restoration of the hull), or the Kifanlo, trawler of the Sands organizing outings-demonstrations (general restoration), without counting small, more ad hoc interventions, for a total of €1,064,703 over the past five years.

Major operations are expected for the coming years, on emblematic ships of the territory, such as the Maillé-Brézé, or the Léchalas, also accompanied scientifically, technically and financially by the DRAC.