Photo Top: State Secretary, Norwegian Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Anette Elseth cuts the ribbon with Mayor of Thessaloniki, Mr. Giannis Boutaris
Less than 2 years ago the Hellenic Rescue Team asked IMRF members for help as their volunteers were facing exhaustion rescuing 10s of thousands of people escaping Syria for Europe across the Aegean Sea from Turkey.
The response was immediate with Norwegian Rednigselskapet (RS) Secretary General Rikke Lind, the first to help with an offer of support made within minutes of the presentation made by HRT.
This offer was followed up with support from the Norwegian Government and the combined efforts of IMRF members SSRS (Sweden), DGzRS (Germany), KNRM (The Netherlands) and RNLI (UK).
1,000’s of lives were saved through this combined response. The capability of HRT to respond to future maritime incidents was enhanced with volunteers trained, equipment and dedicated rescue boats donated.
Last Friday was a milestone day in Thessonaliki with the donation by RS to HRT of 4 new, fit for purpose rescue boats.
"Nansen", "Odin", "Europe" and "Aegean" are the names of the boats "baptized" in Thessaloniki, in front of the White Tower on Friday, April 21st.
The boats were built with funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Norwegian RS-Rednigselskapet, as part of the support program for the Hellenic Rescue Team, amounting to more than 1 million €, which was absorbed for the building of the boats, the purchase of specialized rescue equipment, training programs, upgrading the HRT's radio network and upgrading the organization's administrative services.
Norwegian’s government representative and "godmother" of ‘’Nansen’’ rescue boat, State Secretary, Norwegian Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Anette Elseth, in her greeting referred to the ongoing effort of the Hellenic Rescue Team’s volunteers to protect those at risk in the sea, but also in Marine search and rescue training programs that have been carried out, both in Norway and in Greece. During the previous day, Mrs. Anette Elseth had the opportunity to have a close look of the boats and their equipment, joining the HRT volunteers on the boat during a test run at Thermaikos Gulf.
"I am particularly proud of the fact that Hellenic Rescue Team has its seat in Thessaloniki and during the 30 years since its establishment, has shown a very important work that is based solely on voluntary offering" stressed at his speech the Mayor of Thessaloniki, Mr. Giannis Boutaris, who "baptized" the rescue boat "Europe".
"I want to thank the Norwegian government, the Norwegian rescue organization RS-Rednigselskapet and the Norwegian people for the solidarity they are showing, by donating to the Hellenic Rescue Team these four rescue boats," the mayor noted and concluded, "the Norwegians like the Greeks are a naval people. I wish to HRT good sails ". He also pledged that Thessaloniki Municipality will do whatever it can in order to further strengthen the actions of the Hellenic Rescue Team.
The Minister of Shipping and Island Policy, Panagiotis Kouroumplis and the Chief of the Hellenic Coast Guard, Vice-Admiral Stamatis Raptis, were represented at the event, by Commodore Georgios Perdikouris, Commander of the 2nd Regional Administration of CG, who ‘’baptized’’ the ‘’Aegean’’, while the ‘’baptize’’ of the "Odin" was made by Mrs. Trine Ditlevsen, wife of HE the Ambassador of Norway to Greece.
Greetings at the ceremony were also addressed by the Ambassador of Norway to Greece, Mr. Jørn Eugene Gjelstad, Deputy Minister of the Environment and Energy Mr. Socrates Famellos, RS-Rednigselskapet Secretary General Mrs. Rikke Lind, as well as by the President of the Hellenic Rescue Team, Mr. Georgios Kalogeropoulos.
The ceremony was attended, among others, by the former Deputy Minister of Finance Dimitris Mardas, the Chairman and the CEO of the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) Mr. Udo Fox and Mr. Bruce Reid respectively, the Consul of Norway in Thessaloniki, Mr. Ioannis Akkas, as well as representatives of the Armed Forces and the Security Forces.
Finally, representatives of INTERAMERICAN and Interlife Insurance companies and LALIZAS company, sponsors of the Hellenic Rescue Team, as well as General Director of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Thessaloniki Mrs. Sabine Waehning, attended the ceremony.
Hellenic Rescue Team is very grateful to the Norwegian Organization for the Sea Rescue, RS-Rednigselskapet and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the donation of the rescue boats. Also to all those who helped to the realization of the event, specifically Samiotakis Catering, for sponsorship of the buffet and our big sponsor Aegean airlines. But above all, the HRT’s volunteers for their over-effort.