The 2008 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea has been presented to a Brazilian seafarer who saved fellow crew members from a dangerous fire on a ship.
Mr. Rodolpho Fonseca da Silva Rigueira, of the drill ship Noble Roger Eason, nominated by the Government of Brazil, for his decisive, selfless action to rescue six fellow crew members from a catastrophic fire which burst out on it. The fire originated from an explosion, causing imminent risk to the lives of crew members in the vicinity of the explosion; yet, instead of evacuating the area, he repeatedly faced the fire and very high temperatures to save his colleagues, at severe risk to his own life.
Mr. Rigueira was presented with the award by IMO Secretary-General Mr. Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, during a special ceremony held at the IMO Headquarters on 1 December 2008, during the 85th session of the Organization's Maritime Safety Committee (MSC).
Accepting the award, Mr. Rigueira said: "I am here today to be bestowed with an award of great meaning to my country, and particularly myself. Words could not possibly convey the honor that I feel, or express the depth of my gratitude to you today. I am proud, and honored and very deeply grateful."
"I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate and rejoice with all of those who have also been awarded. As a seafarer, I believe that every one of us can make a difference. Every one of us should. Whether we make a difference or not depends on the courage to be true to ourselves and the faith to try, for the best interest of others as well as our own. I will continue to strive, every day of my life, to be worthy of this honor," he said.
In addition, certificates were presented to the following "highly commended" nominees or their representatives:
• The crews of the Hunter Region Surf Life-Saving Association, Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service, nominated by the Government of Australia, for airlifting 22 crew members from the grounded coal carrier, Pasha Bulker, amid severe weather conditions, risking their own personal safety;
• The Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) Chile, supported by other MRCCs, crews and vessels, as nominated by the Government of Chile, in view of the exemplary multinational co-operation and coordination involved in the successful search and rescue and anti-pollution operations following the sinking of the cruise vessel Explorer, off Antarctica, thereby saving 154 passengers and crew members and avoiding potentially substantial environmental damage. The MRCC Chile, as coordinating centre, was supported by the MRCCs of Argentina, the United States, the United Kingdom and Uruguay; the crews of the MS Nordnorge (Norway); the navy icebreaker Almirante Oscar Viel (Chile); the naval support vessel Ary Rongel (Brazil); the navy ocean-going tug Suboficial Castillo (Argentina); the MS National Geographic Endeavour (Bahamas); the MS Antarctic Dream (Panama); and the MS Ushuaia (Panama);
• Captain Kyaw Thet Aung, master of the ANL Warringa, nominated by the Government of the Marshall Islands, for saving 15 lives from the M/V Fitria Persada, during a search and rescue operation involving considerable risk to his vessel and crew;
• Aviation Survival Technician 2nd Class Lawrence Nettles, Coast Guard HH-65 Helicopter, nominated by the Government of the United States, for courage and perseverance, at severe risk to his own life, in saving the unconscious master of the grounded F/V Alegria under adverse sea conditions;
• Coxswain Mark Criddle, of the Torbay Lifeboat Station, nominated by the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF), for courage, leadership and determination in saving eight survivors from the submerged port quarter of the M/V Ice Prince, under considerable risk to his own life and the lives of his crew; and
• Six officers and crew of the containership Horizon Falcon, nominated by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), for skill, perseverance and courage in saving two survivors from the bulk carrier Hai Tong No. 7, in severe weather generated by Typhoon Man-Yi.
Letters of commendation were sent to the following nominees:
• The crews of the vessel of the Hellenic Coast Guard SAR 516 and the tug boat Alfeios, the staff of the Port Authority of Katakolo and of the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, Piraeus, nominated by the Government of Greece, for saving 302 illegal migrants, in severe weather, from the cargo vessel M/V Akdag; and
• Lieutenant Ulises Toledo Sanchéz, Diver, Mexican Navy Panther Helicopter AMHP-151, nominated by the Government of Mexico, for entering the sea, under severe weather conditions, to save a survivor from the Usumacinta oil rig.
The IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea was established by the Organization to provide international recognition for those who, at the risk of losing their own life, perform acts of exceptional bravery in attempting to save life at sea or in attempting to prevent or mitigate damage to the marine environment - and, by so doing, help to raise the profile of shipping and enhance its image.
Speaking at the award ceremony, Mr. Mitropoulos commended all the nominees. "We are here this evening to honour and pay tribute to heroic men and women, who have all displayed gallantry, valour, courage and dedication to the cause of rescue at sea that go far beyond anything that might be expected as part of their normal duties", he said.
"Even in the 21st century, with all the technical and operational advances that have made ships increasingly safer workplaces, seafaring remains a difficult and hazardous job. The sea, the weather and their combined force can still be powerful adversaries; ships, and those who sail in them, will never be totally immune from danger and there are times when lives, cargoes and the environment are placed in real jeopardy. These are the times when heroes, not necessarily born as such, come to the fore - ordinary men and women, who, inspired by altruism and sentiments of self-sacrifice, do things that go beyond any sense of well-meant duty," he added.