Herman Marwede rescue boat in Helgoland

It was a special birthday for the sea rescuers in the heart of the German Bight, as 20 years ago on the 27th June 2003, the rescue boat HERMANN MARWEDE was christened.

The rescue boat belongs to “The German Society for the Rescue of Shipwrecked Persons” (DGzRS) who is responsible for the search and rescue service on the German part of the North and Baltic Sea areas. More than 1,000 sea rescuers are on duty around 2,000 times a year in 60 rescue units around the clock, in any weather, financed exclusively by voluntary donations. Since it was founded in 1865, the DGzRS has rescued around 86,000 people from distress or danger and it is mentioned that the German Federal President is the patron of the sea rescuers.

From the island of Helgoland, HERMANN MARWEDE the largest sea rescue cruiser of the DGzRS ensures the safety of people on the major shipping routes in the notorious “wet triangle” of Jade, Weser and Elbe. It is one of the most powerful sea rescue units in the world.

The 46 meter long and 9,250 HP strong HERMANN MARWEDE and her daughter boat VERENA are the logical further development of previous sea rescue cruiser generations. In 2003, the rescue unit replaced the 44 meter long WILHELM KAISEN built in 1978 at the DGzRS station German Bight/Helgoland. The HERMANN MARWEDE was built at the Fassmer shipyard in Berne on the Lower Weser, the first daughter boat at the neighboring Lürssen shipyard in Bremen-Vegesack. With the naming, the DGzRS commemorates the long-standing shareholder of the Beck & Co. brewery, whose family made the construction possible with a generous donation. The daughter boat bears the name of Marwedes’ daughter.

The HERMANN MARWEDE is also designed for major disasters at sea. Among other things, it has a particularly powerful fire extinguishing system (capacity 42,000 liters of seawater per minute), which can also be operated with foam agents. The extensively equipped on-board hospital is – as on all sea rescue cruisers – comparable to the equipment of an ambulance on land, but significantly more spacious than on smaller DGzRS units.

Furthermore, a 72 square meter multi-purpose room allows for the reception of many shipwrecked persons at the same time or the transport and preparation of special equipment. A helicopter work deck facilitates cooperation during winch manoeuvres with the German Navy’s large rescue helicopters.

As unique as the HERMANN MARWEDE is in the DGzRS fleet, it ultimately remains a link in the dense chain of 55 rescue stations between Borkum and Ueckermünde. In the event of an emergency, as a glance at the logbook shows, it is always important that all rescue units involved work together optimally.

Just like the entire work of the DGzRS, the construction of the HERMANN MARWEDE was financed exclusively by voluntary donations. This is no different today than it was when the DGzRS was founded 158 years ago.

The HERMANN MARWEDE has during the 20 years of operation completed 600 missions – for seafarers, fishermen, ferry passengers and water sports on the world’s busiest shipping lanes. 120,000 nautical miles are in the logbook and that corresponds to about five and a half orbits around the world. The three 9,250 hp main engines have been running for a total of 2.5 years to move the HERMANN MARWEDE quickly and safely. 2 daughter boats were on board: In 2012, the HERMANN MARWEDE received the new 32-knot VERENA. Since then, the first VERENA has operated independently as WALTER ROSE.

From the log of the HERMANN MARWEDE:

August 2006 – Deflagration and blazing flames on the wooden sailing cutter “Sueno”: For the two men on board, this is a hopeless situation at night off the North Frisian coast. They only just manage to make an emergency call before the radio system fails. But the sea rescuers are already on their way: In stormy winds, the HERMANN MARWEDE’s daughter boat VERENA makes numerous attempts and successfully rescues the two men.

October 2006 – A Russian seaman falls overboard on a container ship in the German Bight. Together with two other sea rescue cruisers, the HERMANN MARWEDE goes on a search voyage at wind speeds of around ten Beaufort (wind speeds of over 100 km/h). Together they achieve the seemingly impossible: the BERNHARD GRUBEN rescues the shipwrecked man. In the end it doesn’t matter which sea rescue cruiser got him out.

May 2007 – Sea rescuers as sailors: South of Heligoland, the HERMANN MARWEDE rescues a water sports enthusiast after a collapse from a sailing yacht. The sea rescuers take over the 39-year-old patient and treat him in the on-board hospital of the HERMANN MARWEDE. Since the two remaining crew members cannot continue sailing alone, a sea rescuer takes over the rudder of the nine-meter-long yacht and sails it to Helgoland.

December 2011 – 37 crew members are on board the 133 meter long Egyptian freighter “Abu Rdees” when a fire breaks out on board on the Outer Elbe. The rescue cruiser HERMANN HELMS brings firefighters to the distressed vessel to fight the fire. The HERMANN MARWEDE takes on five seafarers suspected of smoke gas inhalation and takes them to Cuxhaven under the care of an emergency doctor. The fire is quickly under control. The freighter may continue. Breathe a sigh of relief on board – and a big “Thank you!” to the sea rescuers.

August 2012 – A sailor falls overboard on the research vessel “Heincke” east of Heligoland. Under the leadership of the HERMANN MARWEDE, three other sea rescue cruisers, more than 20 other ships and a total of four helicopters searched for the shipwrecked man for more than 14 hours – without being able to find him alive; the sea stays stronger once more.

December 2012 – After the good experience with the NOTARIUS daughter boat of the 36.5 meter sea rescue cruiser HARRO KOEBKE, the DGzRS also procured such a modern rigid hull inflatable boat with a closed cabin as a daughter boat for the HERMANN MARWEDE. It is also given the name VERENA, is equipped with two jet drives, is extremely manoeuvrable, very seaworthy and has a top speed of 34 knots (approx. 63 km/h). The first daughter boat of HERMANN MARWEDE will be used under the new name WALTER ROSE at the Schilksee volunteer station on the Kiel Fjord, since 2019 it has been used for practical training and further education for sea rescuers in the training center in Neustadt in Holstein and as a jumper.

November 2017 – Fire breaks out in the engine room of the wind farm ship “World Calima”, 18 nautical miles northwest of Helgoland. The crew closes the engine room and floods it with carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, the HERMANN MARWEDE rushes to the crew transfer vessel (CTV), which is now unable to manoeuvre. The sea rescuers take over eight wind farm technicians and tow the distressed vessel to Helgoland. The technicians and five crew members remain unharmed.

May 2019 – The fishing cutter “Stella Polaris” from Büsum is in danger of sinking in the North Sea. A lot of water penetrates into the 18 meter cutter seven nautical miles north of Wangerooge. The frigate “Nordrhein-Westfalen” is ferrying marines across to support the two fishermen in defending against leaks. With its powerful bilge pumps, the HERMANN MARWEDE manages to keep the water from rising any further. The sea rescuers tow the endangered cutter alongside. At around 2 a.m., the unit arrives safely in Wilhelmshaven, accompanied in the meantime by the rescue cruiser HERMANN RUDOLF MEYER/Bremerhaven station and an official ship.

March 2020 – Twelve nautical miles north of Heligoland, a helpless fishing cutter is drifting early in the morning. The two fishermen report machine failure after a short circuit. Her 15-meter cutter threatens to drive electricity into a wind farm at around three knots. The HERMANN MARWEDE cast off immediately. Another cutter nearby runs to the “Martje” and hooks her to hold her in position. The HERMANN MARWEDE takes over the distressed vessel and tows it safely to Heligoland.

June 2021 – Shortly before 3 a.m. a passenger ship on Helgoland Reede alerted the sea rescuers. The crew heard screams in the water. The daughter boat VERENA of the HERMANN MARWEDE is on site within a few minutes. The sea rescuers find and rescue a severely hypothermic man from the 13 degree Celsius cold North Sea. He had apparently fallen off the pier. If the accident had happened just a little later, the man would probably not have been heard and would have been driven out to sea with the tidal current.

November 2021 – On a sailing yacht, a man falls 15 nautical miles north of Langeoog in strong winds and two and a half meters of swell. His two fellow sailors alerted the sea rescuers. The 61-year-old skipper has life-threatening injuries. The HERMANN MARWEDE and a rescue helicopter with an emergency doctor head for the yacht, but the doctor cannot be dropped off on the yacht because of the weather. Instead, he and a paramedic are winched onto the rescue cruiser. The rescue workers take over and care for the patient in the onboard hospital and accompany the distressed vessel to the Jade Estuary.

August 2022 – A small inflatable boat capsizes at around 9.50 p.m. as darkness falls northwest of the neighboring island of Heligoland, Düne. It threatens to drift towards the open sea. The two young men on board can still use their cell phones to notify friends on land. The sea rescuers of the HERMANN MARWEDE lower the daughter boat VERENA into the water and are on site just six minutes later. They rescue the two castaways from the top of the hull of the rubber dinghy, which is barely above the water.