IMO to Launch Maritime Bravery Award

Monday, June 27, 2005
A special award for courage at sea is to be inaugurated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). At its 94th session last week (20 to 24 June), the IMO Council unanimously approved the establishment of an IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea in response to a proposal put forward by Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos.

The purpose of the Award will be to recognize those who, at the risk of losing their own life, commit acts of extreme bravery to rescue persons in distress at sea or to prevent catastrophic pollution of the environment, amidst extreme conditions prevailing at the time, and thus exhibit virtues of self sacrifice in line with the highest traditions at sea and the humanitarian aspect of shipping.

The exact criteria for the Award are being developed and are expected to include the demonstration of exceptional courage, leadership, seamanship and skill, bearing in mind the particular circumstances, the prevailing weather conditions, the number of persons rescued and the degree of risk of pollution averted.

The award scheme will be international; however it will be based on other relevant schemes that are in place nationally worldwide without duplicating them. Under normal circumstances, only one award in any category would be issued each year. Search and rescue organizations may be included among those nominated for the awards. The criteria would be such that, occasionally, the IMO award or awards might not be made in a year if exceptional bravery had not been demonstrated to the satisfaction of the judging panel.

Nominations for Award would be advertised annually and Governments would be invited to nominate candidates or to give their support to nominations made by others. Winners of the award would receive a suitable medal, plaque or trophy provided by the Organization. Awards might also be made on a posthumous basis.

It is envisaged that the nominations for awards would be scrutinized initially by a panel of assessors made up of members of non-governmental organizations in consultative status with IMO with expert knowledge of rescue operations or which represent the seafaring profession. The assessors will provide a shortlist to be considered by a panel of judges, the precise composition of which again has still to be finalized.

The outcome of the judging process will be submitted to the Council for consideration and the winners will be invited to IMO to receive their awards at a special ceremony.

The bravery award is to be in addition to, and distinct from, the IMO International Maritime Prize, which is awarded each year in honour of individuals or organizations adjudged by the Council to have made the most significant contribution to the work of IMO and the attainment of its objectives.

Secretary-General Mitropoulos first floated the notion of a maritime bravery award to the November 2004 session of the Council. Welcoming its approval at this session, he said, "Since first mentioning the idea, I have been greatly encouraged by its enthusiastic reception from all quarters of the maritime community with whom I had the opportunity to discuss it. I am sure the Award will do much, not only to honour those who, by their actions, continue the great maritime traditions of self sacrifice and help for others in distress, but also to help boost the awareness and visibility of shipping among a wider public. The decision of the Council to establish the Award is one of our efforts to raise the profile of shipping and fits well within this year's theme for World Maritime Day: International Shipping: Carrier of World Trade."

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