Januar 01, 2022
January 2021. Holidays in lockdown are behind us, many lockdown days ahead, still we are all unvaccinated. The RISE ABOVE is in the shipyard, endless work is still to be done. We found a way, thanks to strict hygiene rules and many Covid tests. In the coming weeks, the shipyard crew, supported by the back office, continues to work non-stop. In spring, we left the shipyard near Glückstadt and attempted a test drive to Helgoland. It brings disillusion: Too much still needs to be done, the ship is not ready for operation. The shipyard crew and all of us have to deal with this setback. To recharge our batteries, we take a short break in the shipyard and then get back to work. Over the summer, we managed to work through all the roadblocks. The search for motor spare parts for the old engine is unforgotten, and the sourcing of replacement bearing shells is an adventure. Then the great relief when the audio file with the engine sound reaches us in the back office. Music is nothing compared to that!
In parallel, SAR operations and crewing departments are working on preparations for the first mission. The small size of the ship and thus the limited space for the crew mean that every position has to be filled by experienced professionals, men and women who can perform several functions on board at the same time. Manuals and guidelines are written to suit the conditions on board. Operational concepts are discussed and written down. The onboard hospital is fully equipped, Covid19 procedures are established, and tests and equipment are procured. Blankets, clothing, hygiene articles and emergency food for the expected guests are piled up in the office. All of goes to the ship in Wilhelmshaven at the end of August. The crew for the transfer and our captain have also arrived and are preparing for the passage to the Mediterranean. In September the time has finally come, the RISE ABOVE sets sail.
Once there, in Burriana/Spain, we use October for another short shipyard stay. Defects that were found during the crossing have to be repaired. We are receiving fantastic support from people from other sea rescue NGOs who are also in port in Burriana. In the middle of the month, the crew arrives for the first mission, followed by extensive training, briefings – and the anticipation that things can finally get underway.
At home in the Dresden office, this means being on standby around the clock, everyone is involved, everyone is up all night following the ship’s route every minute. Problems reported by the ship are to be solved quickly and competently, and the crew is not to be annoyed with queries. At the same time, the public relations team is working in 24/7 mode. Everyone is following how the RISE ABOVE together with the SEA EYE 4 is driving search patterns in the SAR zone, when suddenly it goes blow upon blow. Several emergencies are reported, for the first one we are barely fifteen minutes late – the so-called Libyan coast guard was faster. A deep hit. The crew can’t think about it, because more distress calls follow right away. In the coming long hours, the RISE ABOVE, together with the SEA EYE 4, rescues 847 people from distress at sea. Our small ship is fast and always rushes ahead to the scene, our RHIB crew stabilizes the situation, calms and safeguards the people until the arrival of the larger ship. In the last operation, the crew was in the RHIB for 12h, in wind, weather, swell, until the people could be rescued onto the Sea Eye4. 847 people who will now hopefully get the chance for a humane, safe life. The RISE ABOVE still accompanies the larger ship and the people to the Port of Safety in Trapani. The arrival there, the joy of the rescued people we all will never forget.
A few weeks later, we start our second mission from Trapani. Again, in the meantime, a shipyard crew has brought the ship up to speed, made repairs, reworked the solution for launching the RHIB so that it can operate more safely and smoothly. Once again, SAR ops and crewing discuss operational concepts and find people who are ready to serve as crew; once again, extensive training and briefings take place before things go underway in mid-December. And once again, the entire back office and public relations team is on permanent standby. In this mission, the first emergency mission comes directly upon arrival in the area of operation. 66 people in distress at sea, no chance to wait for a larger ship. For hours, no response from the maritime distress control centers. Then the captain decides to take the people on board before their boat would capsize. We now have, on a Thursday evening, 66 people on board, including 13 minors. What follows are never-ending hours, days of uncertainty as to when and where we would be assigned a Port of Safety. Malta: No response. Italy: Not responsible. Bremen: Not responsible. Endless mail and telephone contact attempts, of course also into politics and the responsible ministries. Meanwhile, the weather is getting worse and worse, storm is coming, the ship cruises off the Sicilian coast, waiting for the relieving news that did not want to come. Only on Sunday, the 3rd of Advent, we are allowed to enter Porto Empedocle, the people disembark the next day. We wish them that all their hopes for a safe life may come true.
Meanwhile, the RISE ABOVE is back in Spain for her winter shipyard. The tough missions are not only exhausting for the crews, the ship also needs rest and attention – which it will get in the coming months, thanks to many hardworking hands. After that, in spring, we will be ready to rescue people from distress at sea again. Every ship, every helping hand counts – because every day people risk their lives on this deadly route.
We could not do our work without the many thousands of donors who have been and continue to be loyal supporters. Through their contribution, they are as much a part of the MISSION LIFELINE crew as we are.
Whether at the wheel, in the RHIB, at the laptop, at the engine, on the phone, with screwdriver and phase tester, behind the camera, at information booths and demonstrations – we are all LIFELINE.
In 2022, there will again be a hand’s width of water under the keel. That’s what we promise.
Credits: Hermine Poschman, Danilo Campailla, Clemens Ledwa