German lifeboat service celebrates 150 years

German lifeboat service celebrates 150 years. Image courtesy of Mercator Media Ltd
German lifeboat service celebrates 150 years. Image courtesy of Mercator Media Ltd

The 150th anniversary of the German lifeboat service is celebrated in a handsome book of images, as appreciated by Graeme Ewens. This year the German Lifeboat service, the Deutsche Gesellschaft zur Rettung Schiffbrüchiger (DGzRS) celebrates its 150th anniversary.

The German lifeboat service, manned by 185 full-time staff and some 800 volunteers, operates 61 vessels from 54 lifeboat stations around the German North Sea and Baltic coasts. Twenty of those boats are seagoing ‘rescue cruisers’, ranging in size from 20 metres to 46 metres.

The larger vessels also carry small ‘daughter craft’ that are launched through a gate in the transom for work in shallow water. The remainder of the fleet are RIBs manned by volunteers. In an average year the organisation responds to about 2000 shouts.

This year’s anniversary is celebrated with a handsome volume of photographs titled Respekt! by Peter Neumann, a specialist maritime photographer who first went afloat with the lifeboats in 1975. His book not only depicts most of the fleet vessels in action, with plenty of dramatic white water shots, but also includes a re-enactment of the horse-drawn launch of a rowed boat from 1907, a portfolio of crew member portraits; the design and build of today’s boats and a complete listing of the current fleet.

Like the UK’s RNLI, the DgzRS is independently funded by public donations and it maintains equally high standards of seamanship and dedication to saving the lives of seafarers. Unlike the RNLI, however, the German service has a multi-role function which demands a wider range of vessels and equipment, being used for fire-fighting and icebreaking, which are both pictured here.

All these rescue craft are built in Germany. Constructed of steel or aluminium, the boats are designed with a working life span of 25-30 years and their specifications are high. The builders include Abeking and Rasmussen, Fassmer, Lurseen and Schweers, with yards on the River Wesser, and Tamsen Maritim based in Rostock.

As the larger SAR rescue cruisers remain at sea for days at a time they include comfortable crew accommodation, with full galley and messroom etc. Their full-time crews are also trained to multitask: the chief engineer, for instance, might be called to skipper the daughter boat or cook lunch, while the skipper will also be skilled at wielding a spanner or manning a fire hose.

Neumann’s coverage of the organisation and its vessels is comprehensive, entertaining and educational. He has published several books on maritime themes and runs a maritime advertising agency in Hamburg. In developing this career he has designed, built and marketed his own class of fast, retro-styled workboat/launch, which allows him to keep up with the action, and is marketed under the name Kiel Classics.

With text in German and English, this large format, hardback book contains 192 pages with more than 300 colour photos. It is published by Koehlers Verlagsgesellschaft at 39 Euros.

ISBN 978-3-7822-1203-8

By Graeme Ewens

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