Uitreiking van de Ruytermedaille, Rijnstraat, 25 oktober 2023
Op 25 oktober 2023 reikte minister Harbers (IenW) de Ruytermedaille (Koninklijke onderscheiding voor zeevarenden) uit aan twee kapiteins.
Ze werden in ontvangst genomen door hun vrouwen, omdat beide kapiteins op zee zitten. De vrouw van kapitein Feshchenko was er speciaal voor overgekomen uit Oekraïne.
‘Today, I have the privilege of awarding the Ruyter Medal, which is no ordinary decoration. It is named after Michiel de Ruyter, the Netherlands' most renowned naval hero from the Golden Age.’ ‘This ceremony is a little different than usual, because the two captains being decorated today, cannot be here in person. They are both at sea. But behind every great man is a great women. So I am very happy that Miss Feshchenko and Miss Bijsterbosch are here to do the honours. Since we are recording this celebration, I will first address the captains directly.’
Dear miss Feshchenko,
Dear miss Bijsterbosch,
I would like to welcome you all to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management for this special event. We are here today to celebrate the presentation of two Ruyter Medals. I am going to address you in English to accommodate our non-Dutch speaking guests. And since English is the universal language of the sea, I am confident that it suits everyone just fine.
Today, I have the privilege of awarding the Ruyter Medal, which is no ordinary decoration. It is named after Michiel de Ruyter, the Netherlands' most renowned naval hero from the Golden Age.
De Ruyter was a brilliant strategist and a fearless sailor. A true hero of his time, who received numerous honours, titles, and reward medals. On March 18, 1677, he was buried in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam. If he were here today, I believe he would be incredibly proud that there is a medal for seafarers bearing his name and portrait.
Back in 1907, Queen Wilhelmina presented the very first Ruyter Medal on the occasion of De Ruyter's 300th birthday to eighteen seafarers. In the 116 years since, only 210 people received this prestigious honour. That does say something about its significance. And today, we are adding two more people to that list.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This ceremony is a little different than usual, because the two captains being decorated today, cannot be here in person. They are both at sea. But behind every great man is a great women. So I am very happy that Miss Feshchenko and Miss Bijsterbosch are here to do the honours. Since we are recording this celebration, I will first address the captains directly.
I will start with Yevhenii Feshchenko, captain of the Hanzevast Shipping vessel the ms Hanze Göteborg.
Dear mister Feshchenko,
The rescue mission by you and your crew on December 28, 2022, has all the makings of a heart-warming Christmas story. But let me be clear, it didn't seem that way for the four American veterans adrift on a raft in the Atlantic Ocean at the time.
Twenty-two hours earlier, on Boxing Day, their rowboat capsized during the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. On good fortune they send out a distress signal. At around 6 pm, you received their weak Mayday signal, in the pitch darkness of a stormy night. Despite the challenging conditions, you did not hesitate for a moment and ordered your 16-member crew to launch a search and rescue operation.
After two hours, they found the raft moving violently up and down on the high waves. You managed to get a 180-metre-long vessel loaded with 25.000 tonnes of sand alongside a small raft on a very rough sea with impressive skill! Using a rope ladder, the four men climbed aboard. There they found comfort, safety, and relief. Tears also flowed, as they had thought their last hour had passed. But thanks to you and your crew, they survived. It must have been the most extraordinary Christmas for them, and probably also for you and your crew.
For your bold and brave actions, it has pleased His Majesty the King to award you the Ruyter Medal in gold. Congratulations captain Feshchenko! Please pass on our gratitude to your crew, as this medal is a tribute to all of you, even though we are only presenting one. I am going to hand over the medal to your wife and I hope she can pin it on when you are back home. Wear it with pride and have a safe journey!
Miss Feshchenko, could you please come forward?
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our second medal recipient is Herman Bijsterbosch, the captain of the Van Oord vessel, the Nexus.
Dear mister Bijsterbosch,
In the night of November 16, 2022, as you were returning from Taiwan to the Netherlands, you received a request from the Malta Rescue Coordination Centre. They needed your help in rescuing forty-nine refugees who were adrift in the Mediterranean Sea. They were on a boat that was not equipped for a long stay at sea. Certainly not a rough sea.
Initially, you and your crew planned to start the rescue operation at first light, due to safety concerns. However, the worsening weather forced you to start the operation in the middle of the night. Approaching the site, you prepared your crew for the grim scene they would find: forty-nine refugees desperately crammed onto a small, unfit ship, longing to board the Nexus...
The sight of people struggling and clambering over one another had quite an impact on your crew. They had never seen so much fear, despair, and helplessness in peoples eye’s. Once aboard the Nexus, the refugees received warm towels, blankets, and seats. Some members of your crew had quickly prepared hot meals and drinks, which were quickly distributed and accepted with great eagerness.
One of the men was suffering from hypothermia and received care in a cabin. Despite language barriers, the refugees expressed their deep gratitude for being rescued. I can imagine you and your crew will not soon forget this heartfelt response. The following morning, the men were handed over to the Maltese Coast Guard.
For this courageous and compassionate rescue operation it has pleased His Majesty the King to award you the Ruyter Medal in gold. Congratulations captain Bijsterbosch! I am going to hand over the medal to your wife and I hope she can pin it on when her you are back home.
Wear it with pride and please don't forget to let your crew know that they are the unsung heroes of this mission. They share in this glory as well!
Miss Bijsterbosch, could you please come forward?