The Council of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has unanimously endorsed the decision of a Panel of Judges that the 2011 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea should go to Captain Seog Hae-gyun of the Republic of Korea, Master of the chemical tanker Samho Jewelry. Captain Seog was nominated by the Government of the Republic of Korea for his heroic actions to keep his vessel and crew safe, while suffering vicious assaults, following a hijack by pirates off the coast of Somalia.
The Council agreed that Captain Seog displayed truly extraordinary bravery and concern for his crew after his ship was hijacked in the Indian Ocean in January 2011, going far beyond the call of duty, at great risk and danger to himself. With the pirates onboard, Captain Seog steered the vessel away from the Somali coast, watered down the fuel to prevent combustion, pretended the steering gear was not working properly and reduced the vessel’s speed. He also managed, surreptitiously, to communicate information to naval forces, which facilitated a dramatic raid by commandos from the Republic of Korea’s destroyer Choi Young. As a result, all 21 crew members were rescued.
During the hijack, Captain Seog was subject to a number of assaults, causing fractures to his legs and shoulders. He was later shot twice in the abdomen and once in the upper thigh, required several surgical operations and almost lost his life.
The Council also decided that, of the other nominees or groups of nominees, eight should receive Certificates of Commendation and eleven Letters of Commendation.
The Council further agreed that special certificates be awarded to the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCCs) Falmouth (United Kingdom) and Stavanger (Norway) for their contribution, on several occasions, to search and rescue operations unfolding in distant areas, far away from their respective countries’ SAR regions, and for their dedicated performance over many years.
A total of 38 nominations from 14 Member States and one non-governmental organization in consultative status with IMO were received. They were first considered by an Assessment Panel, which was chaired by the IMO Secretary-General and consisted of experts nominated by various international non-governmental organizations in consultative status with IMO. A Panel of Judges then met, led by the Chairman of the IMO Council, with the participation of the Chairmen of IMO’s Maritime Safety, Marine Environment Protection, Legal, Technical Co operation, and Facilitation Committees.
A ceremony for the winner to receive his award will be held on Monday 21 November, the first day of IMO’s biennial Assembly meeting.