At its Annual General Meeting in Erice, Italy, on 10th - 11th September 1999, the ESF-Marine Board decided to initiate an action to promote the co-ordination of small to medium sized research vessel operators in Europe.

Following a preliminary meeting of the European Research Vessel Operators (ERVO) group, which was held in Roscoff (France) in December 1999, the research vessel managers/operators decided to form a flexible forum which would meet annually to share experiences of common interest, to explore opportunities for co-operation between R.V. managers and to define the scope for such cooperation. The participants agreed that each institution would self-finance and every year, one of the RV managers would organise a meeting of the network.

Subsequent meetings were held in Ireland (2000) Italy (2001), Norway (2002), Romania (2003), Spain (2004), Portugal (2005), Iceland (2006), Belgium (2007), Bulgaria (2008), Denmark (2009), United Kingdom (2010), Italy (2011), Portugal (2012), France (2013), Spain (2014), Ireland (2015), Greece (2016), Finland (2017), Malta (2018), Germany (2019), Online (2021), Romania (2022), Sweden (2023). The success of the ERVO group can be measured from the fact that the number of regularly participating countries has risen from 7 to 18: Iceland, Ireland, United Kingdom, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Portugal, Bulgaria and Turkey. The number of attendees also increase from 18 (1999, first meeting) to average 30 (up to 51, 2017 meeting).

ERVO meetings address common issues/problems that affect research vessel operators for the purpose of identifying solutions for improving services to the scientific community and developing best practice in the operation of Research Vessels. Members present their National Reports on activities, including any future plans for acquisitions/upgrades.

Presentations on new vessel builds are invited and a number of special topics are discussed at each meeting.

The ERVO Meetings provide an opportunity for RV Managers to exchange information on their national fleets, highlighting trends in the requirements for sea-going vessels and new technological developments for R.V. operations.

The Terms of Reference of the ERVO Group have been adopted in 2011 and updated in 2016. An Agreement between the EurOcean Foundation and ERVO has been signed in April 2014.

The EUROFLEETS project participates actively in ERVO meetings since 2008 and since 2012 ERVO is a permanent invitee to EUROFLEETS meetings.