The Deutsche Gesellschaft zur Rettung Schiffbrüchiger (DGzRS) or German Maritime Search
and Rescue Association, is one of the most modern sea rescue services in the world.
We finance our work exclusively through donations and voluntary contributions. As a SAR service,
we are on call around the clock in the North Sea and Baltic Sea in all kinds of weather –
with a fleet of 60 sea rescue cruisers and lifeboats.
During World War II, the DGzRS rescue fleet – marked with the distinctive red cross – is heavily deployed for both “friend and foe” under the protection of the Geneva Convention.
Christening of the first modern-day sea rescue cruiser with a „daughter“ boat: when the THEODOR HEUSS enters service, a new, ground-breaking era in the construction of modern, versatile rescue boats begins.
The sea rescue cruiser ADOLPH BERMPOHL is lost at sea in a hurricane during a mission off the coast of Helgoland. The four crew members and three previously rescued Dutch fishermen all perish.
Re-unification : the DGzRS takes on the work of eleven stations along the coast of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania once again – today there are 17.
On May 29th, the German Maritime Search and Rescue Association (DGzRS) is founded in Kiel. The headquarters of the DGzRS is Bremen. The sea rescue stations are equipped with simple rocket flares, breeches buoys and open rowboats.
During a hurricane on the night of 1st to 2nd of January, the sea rescue vessel ALFRIED KRUPP is caught by groundswell whilst returning from a mission. Two of the four crew members are lost at sea.
150 years of DGzRS: 60 sea rescue units are in service. The rescue fleet is among the most modern and most effective in the world. In spite of all the technology, our focus is, as ever, on people. Without the voluntary efforts of experienced sea rescuers, the work of the DGzRS would be inconceivable today.
Following major maritime emergencies along the North Sea coast, Adolph Bermpohl and Carl Kuhlmay call for the creation of a sea rescue service on a private basis. As early as 1861, Georg Breusing establishes the first German regional association for sea rescue in Emden. Other associations follow along the coast. Dr. Arwed Emminghaus plays a leading role in championing the merger of the associations.
The motorisation of the rescue fleet begins.
When Germany is divided, the DGzRS continues its sea rescue service in the German Bight and the western Baltic Sea on a private basis. The sea rescue service of the GDR, in contrast, is organized by the government.
The DGzRS has already saved over 50,000 people from distress at sea or in dangerous situations: this corresponds to the present-day population of the town of Passau in Bavaria. The Sea Rescuers have provided prompt assistance to around 81,000 people - as many as the inhabitants of the city of Villingen-Schwenningen in Baden-Württemberg.
After Norddeich Radio closes down, the DGzRS takes over duty for round-the-clock monitoring of VHF maritime radio for emergency and safety calls.
Over 90 percent of the worldwide exchange of goods and commodities takes place via sea routes. Sea rescue is just as international:
World Maritime Rescue Congress
The next World Maritime Rescue Congress (WMRC) will take place in Bremen and Bremerhaven in 2015. The host will be the Deutsche Gesellschaft zur Rettung Schiffbrüchiger (DGzRS), which will also celebrate its 150th anniversary that year.
The members of the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) meet every four years at the WMRC for intensive and very open discussions about rescue technology and experience gained during missions at sea.
For further information, visit: www.international-maritime-rescue.org
Recover castaways. Save people from danger. Care for the
injured and sick. We are ready to launch into action around
the clock and literally in any wind and weather.
The 12th of July 2011 is a date Lars Kolbe will never forget: the day on which his cutter went up in flames 25 nautical miles west of the island of Sylt. The skipper and his two crew members had to fight for their lives.
The west-south-westerly gale was blowing at wind force 9 (Beaufort scale) up to 90km/h when the situation on board the small but sturdy cabin cruiser “Brummer” became life threatening.
The two men on board the „Neptun“ have not a moment to spare during the night from 20th to 21st of April 2013: with their 13-metre long cutter, they have already reached the approach to Großenbrode at Fehmarn, when around 1...
”In the morning, everything was still as always. We had great weather, we were familiar with the area and, therefore, all three of us went diving at an old wreck. We only left our cutter „Venus“ alone for half an hour, but that was enough to put us all in mortal danger.
When we came up to the surface, I immediately heard the beeping of the smoke alarm. Thick smoke was billowing out of the saloon door. It had almost completely enveloped the ship since it was practically dead calm. The diving ladder was situated in front of the door, so I knew at once that we couldn’t get back on board. But we had to send a distress signal somehow!
Fortunately, on the other side of the cutter, our rubber dinghy lay alongside. We swam around the “Venus” and climbed aboard over the dinghy – into the middle of a black cloud of smoke and without knowing what was awaiting us.
Immediately, acrid fumes hit us in the face. The stench took my breath away. Only I didn’t see any flames. On the bridge everything was black already. What came to mind was what we had learned previously: three breaths of smoke and that was it! But I knew I had to press the digital SOS signal for the sea rescue service. On the first attempt, I failed, the smoke was simply too thick. I couldn’t press the button long enough.
On the second try, I managed it. For a moment, I was relieved, but my next thought was that we had to get off the ship at once. There was a 50-litre oxygen tank still on board that could explode any second. Quickly grabbing a handheld transceiver, we jumped in the rubber dinghy and got away from the ship as fast as we could. When we looked back, we could already see open flames in the saloon and then the window panes burst. That was really, really close!
Fortunately, a container ship picked up our distress signal and established radio contact between us and the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Bremen. The DGzRS alerted two rescue vessels, a SAR helicopter and a customs ship sailing in our vicinity. This took us on board, and a little later the sea rescuers directed the helicopter to us. The air was filled with its noise as it hauled us up with its winch.
We were then taken to the hospital in Niebüll and it was all over for us. But the whole time my thoughts were with our ship. Later we found out what happened: Although the sea rescuers together with other ships were able to put out the fire, our “Venus” didn’t make it to the harbour any more. She sank off the coast of Helgoland.”
“Ahead of us, behind us, next to us, all I could see was water,” says Dieter Clasen remembering fearful moments in the valleys between the waves. In the evening of the 29th of August, off the Weststrand of Darss, with waves several metres high, he (70) and his daughter Inga Roland (47) got into a situation particularly feared by seamen: strong winds coming from open water press into shore and make a trip east to west extremely difficult. After a visit to relatives in Altefähr/Rügen, the two sailors cast off at wind force 4 to 5 and headed for their home port of Wismar. “I knew that my boat could take it”, says Clasen.
However, things turned out differently: the weather suddenly shifted. In the evening, the Darsser West Beach measured Beaufort 9. With bad visibility, the onshore storm pressed the boat so close to shore that it could no longer free itself on its own. It danced up and down, at the mercy of the waves . “Legerwall” is the term German seamen use for this dangerous situation.
On the outer reef break, Clasen casts anchor. There is no longer any possibility to go forward or back. “I would have spent the night on board, but my daughter...“, Clasen relates. Inga Roland is struggling with severe seasickness. She loses more fluids than she can drink. The situation becomes dangerous, but Clasen has no radio set on board. With his mobile telephone, he calls his son, who does not hesitate: He notifies the MRCC BREMEN of the DGzRS.
Around 19.25 hours, the alarm sounds on the SAR cruiser THEO FISCHER/Station Darsser Ort. Each of the four rescuers on board immediately knows, the impending mission will be anything but a stroll. Recoveries in the breakers have always been among the most difficult and most dangerous operations of the search and rescue services. All DGzRS units are therefore built so that they can withstand heavy swells and collisions. You never know...
The THEO FISCHER fights her way through high waves off Darsser Ort. Nevertheless, the search takes only a relatively short time – not least due to the rescuers’ familiarity with the territory. Not 100 metres off the Darsser Weststrand, they find the little boat quite fairly dancing in water only 1.5 metres deep.
The most difficult part of the mission lies still ahead of the sea rescuers. With their shallow-draught daughter boat STRÖPER, they approach the impaired vessel. The recovery of the skipper and his daughter turns out to be a challenge. Thanks to manoeuvres practiced again and again, the experienced lifeboat crew needs only three attempts to secure the two shipwrecked sailors on board. Then they return to the SAR cruiser.
In the port of refuge Darsser Ort, the volunteer sea rescuers from the Station Prerow/Wieck take over the rescued persons, who are completely exhausted, soaked to the skin and in shock – having previously organized dry clothing and accommodation for the night. “The helpfulness of the sea rescuers at sea and on land was boundless. We owe them our heartfelt thanks!” Clasen is still relieved today.
Once again, this mission has shown the necessity of maintaining a DGzRS station in this area of the Baltic, from which the SAR services can intervene at close hand and speedily.
On the VORMANN JANTZEN, lying at this time in Großenbrode, the international emergency VHF channel 16 is on round the clock in the cabins of the crew below deck. It is the same on all sea rescue vessels of the DGzRS. “We only really wake up when we are called. You can tell from the voice,” says coxswain Uwe Radloff.
But in this night, the alarm does not come “over 16”. Valuable time is lost because the shipwrecked sailors – perhaps in the rush and stress of the situation – call for help over a different channel. And so their emergency call reaches the sea rescue service via an indirect route. It is the MARITIME RESCUE COORDINATION CENTRE in Bremen that alerts the crew of the VORMANN JANTZEN.
Instantly, the four sea rescuers are wide awake. They respond to the emergency call, however, the radio is silent. The four men look at each other briefly. They realize, now it is a matter of life and death out there. Especially since the Baltic Sea is 6 degrees cold.
Without delay, the VORMANN JANTZEN pulls out to sea. Each of the rescuers is occupied in their own thoughts with the seamen in distress, who, in the dark and possibly without a rescue resource, are completely on their own. “You never know what’ll happen,“ as they say among sea rescuers.
“All levers down on the table“: the SAR cruiser sails full speed ahead. Suddenly, the lookout points to portside. The castaways are making weak light signals with a battery torch. “Searchlights over there!“
Now everything goes fast: daughter boat BUTSCHER out and over to the wreck. Only the masts of the cutter are still sticking out of the water. “We could not have managed to hold out ten minutes longer,“ says one of the survivors later.
The SAR men take the survivors on board the rescue cruiser and give them dry clothing and warming tea. A volunteer crew member, a paramedic by profession and currently on board as reinforcement, gives the men first aid. Relatives pick them up at the harbour. “That was a close call,“ says coxswain Radloff.
It is a short night for the men of the VORMANN JANTZEN. In the morning, the next distress call comes in: a sailing yacht has run aground – but that’s another story.
In an emergency, we must be able to respond promptly and reliably. For this we
require the safest equipment and a modern fleet – with sea rescue vessels and lifeboats
that defy wind and weather.
No matter how high the waves, we always focus on reaching harbour safely and soundly
with survivors safe on board.
Get to know our SAR cruiser NIS RANDERS.
With the mouse button pressed down, you can turn around 360°; by clicking, you get to the next room. You can also „board“ the daughter boat ONKEL WILLI by clicking.
Get to know our SAR cruiser HARRO KOEBKE.
With the mouse button pressed down, you can turn around 360°; by clicking, you get to the next room. You can also „board“ the daughter boat NOTARIUS by clicking