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
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