THE German church alliance United4Rescue has bought a ship in Kiel to support rescue missions in the Mediterranean.
It announced last Friday that its €1.5-million bid for the former research vessel Poseidon — built in 1975 and 60 metres long — was successful, and that it hoped to sail by Easter. The ship still has to be converted and fitted with dinghies and a sick bay.
The bishop who chairs the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), Dr Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, of the Lutheran Church in Bavaria, welcomed the next step: “The deployment of civilian rescue teams is urgently needed. People are still dying in the Mediterranean; their lives are in danger. There is still no state sea-rescue service: the civilian sea-rescue services are the only ones who are really rescuing people at present and bringing them to safe havens. That is why I am glad that progress is being made so that the Poseidon can be converted and equipped so that it can now leave as soon as possible to save people.”
United4Rescue, founded at the beginning of December in Hamburg on the initiative of the EKD, unites more than 300 organisations and institutions that are committed to sea rescue in the Mediterranean (News, 6 December). They ran a concerted pre-Christmas campaign in December asking for donations; more than 2500 people and organisations have already donated to the project.
The alliance contributed €1.1 million towards the purchase of the ship. The rest of the sum will be covered by the German NGO Sea-Watch, which will operate the ship on behalf of the alliance. The chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, has made €50,000 available for the alliance from funds of his Munich diocese, although the Roman Catholic Church is not a member of the alliance.
The president of the Protestant Church in the Rhineland, Manfred Rekowski, said: “Rescue at sea is actually a state duty, which has not been effectively performed in the Mediterranean for years. That is why the initiative of others is necessary.”