Volker Böder killed in tragic accident

10 September 2012

On 31st August the survey ship Level A collided with a Belgian propelled barge on the River Rhine at Basel, Switzerland. The vessel capsized and four crew members fell overboard. Although Dr Volker Böder, project director and lecturer in geodesy and hydrography at the Hafen City University Hamburg (HCU), was rescued he sadly died in hospital the following day as a result of his injuries. Despite a large-scale search operation, the skipper of Level A has not been found. The two remaining crew members survived the accident.

Level A had been commissioned by the Basel urban construction and transportation departments, in collaboration with the Swiss Rhine ports active in Basel, and tasked with testing new equipment and technologies for measuring the shipping lanes in the Rhine. The vessel and crew had arrived in Basel earlier that earlier that week and were due to continue working on the Rhine for a further two weeks.

Volker Böder, who was just 47 years old and had been a lecturer at Hafen City University since 2005, was greatly respected by his colleagues and very popular amongst his students. He personified the ideal modern academic: engaging, open-minded and always approachable. Apart from his lectures he was involved in numerous research projects to improve and optimise hydrographic applications. With the survey vessel Level A he had worked on lakes in Switzerland, Austria and Hungary.

Volker was at the forefront of initiatives to encourage young people to join the hydrographic profession and will be remembered as a driving force behind the international hydrographic exchange programmes established between higher educational institutes throughout Europe. He realised that the hydrographers of the future would be operating in a global industry and that it was therefore vital for hydrographic students to gain international experience as early as possible. He also introduced special hydrographic summer camps in Germany to promote the profession. Internationally he contributed to FIG, not only through his work with Commission 4 but also by demonstrating how hydrographers benefit the global economy.

Dr Walter Pelka, president of the HCU, Stated "At this dreadful time, our thoughts and our sympathies go out to the families of Volker Böder and the captain of the Level A. We were terribly sorry to hear about this disaster. With the loss of Dr Böder, we lose someone who was a great expert in his field, whose reputation extended far beyond the HCU Hamburg. Above all, we mourn a sincere, helpful and popular colleague. Words cannot truly express what this loss means to the HCU and the world of geomatics in particular."

Volker Böder had been a member of the German Hydrographic Society (DHyG) since 1994 and became an active board member in 2006. In 2008 he was appointed Chief Editor of the Hydrographische Nachrichten (the German Hydrographic Journal). In addition he coordinated DHyG working groups and also the committee for the certification of hydrographic professionals.

Holger Klindt, Chairman of DHyG commented "Volker leaves a wife and two young children behind. Our deep thoughts are with them. We all lost a great friend and supporter. Continuing DHyG's efforts without him will certainly not be easy in the coming years, but Volker's enthusiasm and the ideas he was always willing to share with us will keep us moving forwards just as he would have wished us to do."

Writing on the DHyG website Christian Maushake observed "Quite unexpectedly this tragic accident on the River Rhine takes a man's life - a husband and father of two. The German Hydrographic Society lost an active member. The international hydrographic community lost a highly respected and competent scientist. Many of us will miss him as a communicator and as a person."

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