150 years DGzRS

Heading out to sea when others are returning to harbour

Posted on 08 May 2015 by Deutsche Gesellschaft zur Rettung Schiffbrüchiger (DGzRS), Images by DGzRS/ Die Seenotretter, MTU

Lifeboat crews are on call around the clock and in all weathers.

Lifeboat crews are on call around the clock and in all weathers. Very often they are heading out into the North Sea or the Baltic precisely when other ships are seeking the safety of the harbour – and they do so on more than 2,000 occasions a year, year after year. They do the job voluntarily and selflessly.

The German Maritime Search and Rescue Service (DGzRS) is responsible for search and rescue (SAR) services at sea. It performs those duties independently, on its own account and as a private organisation, funded now as in the past exclusively by voluntary donations without any state or government assistance. The DGzRS, which has the President of Germany as its patron, makes no claim on German taxpayers to perform its duties.

The vast majority of the roughly 1,000 German lifeboat personnel are unpaid volunteers. Within a few minutes of a call-out, they man the lifeboat in the harbour and head out to sea. To save others, they frequently put their own lives at risk. Only around 180 of them stationed on the larger, permanently crewed vessels are permanent employees of the DGzRS.

In total, the DGzRS maintains a fleet of 60 rescue craft at 54 stations between the island of Borkum in the west and the Bay of Pomerania in the east. The DGzRS Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) in Bremen is the command centre for all SAR operations. The DGzRS Bremen Rescue Radio station monitors the international radio mayday call frequencies around the clock.

There have been lifeboat services in Germany for roughly 150 years. In the beginning, eight or ten-man open rowing boats were used to save shipwreck victims. The lifeboatmen bravely trusted to nothing more than their own physical strength to battle the raging sea. Today's lifeboat crews have the benefit of 20 modern sea rescue vessels with on-board launches and 40 smaller but equally seaworthy lifeboats.

But despite all the technical advances, the central pillar of the lifeboat service is still its people – the willingness of the rescue crews to perform their frequently perilous missions on a voluntary basis. In 2014 alone, they saved 768 people in distress or impending danger at sea. Since the middle of the 19th century, around 92,000 people owe them a debt of gratitude for their speedy assistance.

The last Sunday in July each year is "Lifeboat Day". It is an occasion when those living near the sea, holidaymakers and day-trippers have the opportunity to talk to the lifeboat crews and witness for themselves their capabilities and commitment. The DGzRS uses the day to show their friends and patrons how they put the funds with which they are entrusted to the best possible use.

Account for donations:
Sparkasse Bremen (sort code 290 501 01), account no. 107 2016IBAN: DE36 2905 0101 0001 0720 16, BIC: SBREDE22

The German Maritime Search and Rescue Service (DGzRS) in brief:

• 54 stations on North Sea and Baltic coasts between Borkum in the West and
  Usedom in the East• 60 sea rescue vessels and lifeboats• 1,000 lifeboat personnel of whom 800 are volunteers• On call around the clock in any weather• More than 2,000 missions a year• Co-ordinated by the DGzRS Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Bremen• Roughly 82,000 people saved since 1865• Financed exclusively by voluntary donations without assistance from the taxpayer• For more information, visit: www.seenotretter.de, e-mail: info@seenotretter.de

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