On 10 December 2012, Jan Oltmanns, Port Chaplain and Director of the Hamburg DUCKDALBEN international seamen's club, was awarded the Cross of Merit, the highest tribute the Federal Republic of Germany can pay to individuals for services to the nation.
During the award presentation, Hamburg Economics Minister Frank Horch praised Oltmanns as an individual "who has rendered an outstanding service to Hamburg and above all to his 'crew' of seamen visiting the Port of Hamburg. Since 1986, you have directed the DUCKDALBEN international seamen's club with passion,commitment and a love for mankind." The Order of Merit is normally not awarded for
services that were more or less performed for occupational or vocational reasons. But Oltmanns' case is different: "Through your tireless efforts, you have made DUCKDALBEN one of the leading seamen's missions in the world. You impressively understand how to make other persons aware of the situation of seamen from all over the world. And you have the wonderful gift of convincing others, of supporting them ... Your dedication goes far beyond an occupational commitment. You are DUCKDALBEN with heart and soul."
DUCKDALBEN won the Seafarers Centre of the Year Award in the International Seafarers' Welfare Awards in 2011.
The DUCKDALBEN is located directly in the port of Hamburg and the only institution of its kind in the harbour. Through November 2012, over 31,000 seamen from 111 countries visited the club this year. In 2011, the total figure was nearly 37,000 seamen. At DUCKDALBEN, seamen can telephone, skype or use the Internet for very reasonable fees. They can safely and quickly transfer money home to their families. They can shop for cosmetics, from body lotion and shampoo up to toothpaste and toothbrushes. There is also a wide assortment of snacks and sweets, plus an array of hot sausages and cold beverages. Billiards, table tennis, table football, an outdoor sports field, library and karaoke room help seamen unwind from a long journey. And in non-denominational chapel Room of Silence, a seaman can find solitude whatever his religious beliefs.
There's also a free shuttle service with four VW mini-busses; on request, seamen are picked up and brought to DUCKDALBEN, and later returned to their ship. During 2011, the four vehicles logged in a total of over 214,000 kilometres driven. With regard to the large (74 square kilometre) port area, this service is both popular and indispensable.
13 full-time employees work at DUCKDALBEN, along with five young persons performing a voluntary social year, and around 50 volunteers. This support enables DUCKDALBEN to be open from 10.00 AM to 10.30 PM, 364 days a year. The seamen's club is financed by the Hamburg Port Authority, eight major sponsors from the shipping and harbour sectors, the International Transport Worker's Federation Seafarers' Trust, voluntary ships' contributions, the Northern German Evangelical Church, and numerous private donations both large and small.