Duckdalben Mission

A Seafarer’s Anchorage Ground

A warm place, a sanctuary, a little treasure nestled in the middle of the buzzing terminals of Altenwerder, Tollerort and Burchardkai – surrounded by the noises of the busy Autobahn and reloading of containers from all around the world.

Duckdalben has become an important institution for the men and women of the sea.

The pressure of work on board of the big container ships, the shortened transshipping times and the absence of family and home can be a burden for the seafarers.

The award winning Club was founded in 1986 in Waltershof at the Köhlbrandbrücke. Since then over 900.000 seafarers visited the club, whose name comes from mooring posts. The throughout the world known icon of the club is a duck sitting on the posts that are piled deep into the grounds of the port for ships to moor.

The International Seamen’s Club Duckdalben of the Seamen’s Mission Hamburg-Harburg offers aid, assistance and counsel. Because with the dramatic turns of the refugee situation on the Mediterranean Sea comes the aftermath: more often seafarer of cargo vessels and freighters are saving refugees from unseaworthy boats on their way to the promised lands of Europe. They find floating clothes, wreckage or bodies in the open waters. Sometimes they even have to watch helplessly boats overturning while refugees all rush to one side, the side where rescue approaches. Imagery that is difficult to process.

At the Duckdalben Club you’ll find a lot of love. Love for detail, gifts and memorabilia from all around the world, which makes this place look like a nautical museum – every life-saver on the wall tells different story. A passion for communication – if it is in personal conversations with the staff or the help to communicate with family at home. A ferventness to help getting seafarers with both feet back on the ground – at least for a little while until they’ll leave with the tide for the next haven.

It is time for sports on the basketball field, Pool Billiard on the club rooms (by the way, Pool Billiard is a symbol for being on land, try playing that on the open sea!), Karaoke party in private rooms or a time for reflectiveness in the Room of Silence in the upper levels of the club house. Almost all religions of the world are united in this room. If you close the door, you stand in the middle of one of the most peaceful places you have ever been to – silence surrounds you along with the feeling of a cosmopolitan unity.

This place embraces every color of the skin, respects religious beliefs and cultures from far away. People from ALL around the world are welcome in the club.

In 2015 the club had 37.807 visitors: 18.482 seamen from the Philippines, 2.549 from China, 48 from Syria, 2 from Saudi Arabia or 8 from Norway came to find sanctuary at Duckdalben. And the list goes on and on..

Besides stocking up on chocolate – and Duckdalben sells more than a ton of Milka and Ritter Sport chocolate a month – the seafarer find some quiet time to communicate with home. In every corner of the club you see people sitting on a couch or on chairs, talking into their tablets and smartphones. Showing their family around the club via facetime. Even phoning overseas in one of the nostalgic phone booths or skyping from one of the from the club provided desktop computers. Technical progress has made it easy to stay close to the family overseas.

I have been a couple of times at the club while the famous Queen Mary 2 luxury liner stayed at the docks of Blohm+Voss. While everyone in Hamburg went crazy for the ship, I was more interested to see what the people that are keeping the ship running are doing. Who they are and where they come from. I met Dwayne from Jamaika, Freemar and Mark from the Philippines.

I played pool with Junior Airaurau from Samoa who works on a container ship. I watched a couple of guys from the Philippines taking time off of their QM2 duty and competing in Karaoke while they had friends and family in the facetime-audience.

Over all this little Duck sitting on the mooring post is a symbol for peace, for equality. For an open heart, for humanity among each other.