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SAR Officer Caleb Halle Receives 2023 IMO Bravery Award

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

November 29, 2023

Caleb Halle courtesy of the IMO.

Caleb Halle courtesy of the IMO.

The 2023 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea has been presented to Caleb Halle, Aviation Survival Technician Second Class (AST2) of the United States Coast Guard (USCG). He was recognized for the outstanding courage, endurance and determination he showed during the rescue of the seven-strong crew of the tugboat Legacy in January 2023.

AST2 Halle, based at the Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, received the award at the annual IMO Awards Ceremony in London. The ceremony was held at the conclusion of the first day of the 33rd session of the IMO Assembly (A33) which is taking place from November 27 to December 6.

AST2 Halle was accompanied at the Awards ceremony by his parents, his wife and baby daughter. Accepting the award, he thanked them for their support, and described the pride he felt: “I am honored to have been nominated and chosen for this award. I am also honored to have participated in this rescue with the excellent aircrews I flew with that night...This was a team effort in every aspect of the rescue, and I would have been unable to conduct this rescue operation without the combined efforts of both aircrews that night.”

Halle continued: “This is just one story among many that Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers and their aircrews quietly accomplish every day, and I am proud to be a small part of their time-honored tradition of saving lives.”

Courageous and determined rescue

AST2 Halle was part of a helicopter rescue team dispatched to assist the tugboat Legacy on 14 January 2023. The vessel and its seven-strong crew were adrift in violent seas 35 nautical miles off the coast of Maryland on the east coast of the US.

Halle led a plan to hoist the crew members up to the helicopter from the stern of the Legacy but, having successfully helped one of them to reach the rescue basket, he determined it was unsafe to continue until he found a safer location on the boat’s main deck. He notified his colleagues in Helicopter CG-6566 to relocate to a position above it and was able to ensure two further survivors were hoisted to safety.

At this point the helicopter had to depart the scene due to a lack of fuel. But AST2 Halle volunteered to remain on site to reassure the four remaining tugboat crew and to assist a relief Coast Guard helicopter when it arrived. Darkness was falling by the time Helicopter CG-6024 reached the scene, and, to make already hugely challenging conditions even more difficult, communications between the search and rescue officer and the helicopter were lost.

Despite all this, Halle was able to help the rescue swimmer from the second helicopter reach the deck of the violently pitching tugboat and, together, they managed to hoist the remaining four crew to safety.

Before the two USCG officers were, themselves, to be winched off the Legacy, AST2 Halle undertook a final search of the tugboat during which the watertight seal of his survival suit was damaged. He and his colleague were then thrown off the boat into the freezing and tempestuous water, and worryingly close to the tugboat’s propellors. As AST2 Halle’s survival suit began to flood, the helicopter managed to reposition and, eventually, both rescue swimmers were lifted safely from the sea.

The Panel of Judges agreed that AST2 Halle’s actions clearly demonstrated exceptional bravery and determination in extreme and complex conditions. He was nominated for the IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea by the United States of America.

Certificates of Commendation

Certificates of Commendation were presented during the event to four individuals or groups for their acts of bravery. A further 13 have been sent letters of commendation. 

Also recognized at the Awards ceremony was Anneliese Jost, this year’s recipient of the prestigious International Maritime Prize. Jost was nominated for the award by the Federal Republic of Germany for her contribution, in particular, to maritime safety. Jost was Chair of the IMO Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Equipment, and on Ship Design and Construction, a role she held for 10 years.

Certificates of Commendation were presented to the following:

The crew of the tug vessel SL Diamantina, nominated by Australia, for their crucial role in the three-day-long coordinated rescue of 21 crew members from the bulk carrier Portland Bay, carrying 1,000 tons of fuel oil. A marine pollution incident was prevented.

José Cardoso Lemos, subsistence fisher, nominated by Brazil for his bravery, selfless actions and determination in singlehandedly pulling to safety on his fishing boat 25 survivors off the sunken passenger vessel Dona Lourdes II, before assisting with the recovery of others who had drowned.

The crew of the fishing vessel Zhe Long Gang Yu 05668, nominated by China for their outstanding courage and tireless efforts during the rescue of another fishing vessel, the Zhe Ling Yu Yun 30058. It had caught fire, with flames quickly spreading due to strong winds. Twelve survived; sadly, one fisher lost his life.

Aviation Survival Technician Third Class John Walton, rescue swimmer on board helicopter CG-6009, Aviation Training Centre Mobile, Sector North Bend, United States Coast Guard, nominated by the United States. AST3 Walton played a vital role in saving the life of a person thrown overboard from the motor yacht Sandpiper when it capsized.

Letters of Commendation

The following have been sent Letters of Commendation:

The Master and crew of the M/V Guo Yuan 8, nominated by China for their roles in the rescue in severe weather and sea conditions of five of the 22 crew members of the capsized cargo vessel Jin Tian.

The Master and crew of the M/T Liao You 123, nominated by China, for the rescue in strong winds and freezing temperatures of the three crew of fishing vessel Liao Ying 35419 who were suffering from hypothermia.

LV Pierre Bonneau, MP Vanessa Legall and MT Guillaume Colin, the helicopter detachment of the Flotilla 34F on board the patrol frigate Prairial, French Navy. They were nominated by France for their roles in the international rescue operation of the Peruvian Navy vessel BAP Guise which had caught fire.

Louis Vasseur, volunteer rescue swimmer and crew member on board the all-weather boat SNS 086 Cap Fagnet, Fécamp Rescue Station, National Sea Rescue Society, nominated by France, for the rescue of two crew members of the sailing vessel Appollonia during a storm.

Clément Belin and Nino Verlie, crew members of the intervention, assistance and rescue tug Abeille Normandie, nominated by France for their rescue, using an inflatable boat, of two people who were being swept off Carnot dyke at Le Portel in the Pas-de-Calais due to rough seas.

Diego D Sachs, Sascha Kümpel, Nick Tamm and Marek Möckel, members of a Towing Assistance Team of the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration, nominated by Germany for their actions which saved the lives of those onboard the cargo vessel Royal II which was disabled and drifting towards the coast and at risk of grounding or collision. A serious marine pollution incident was avoided.

Captain Anil Choudhary and the crew of the M/V Helios Leader, nominated separately by India and Singapore, for their contributions to the rescue operation of more than 300 people on board the wooden boat Lady R3 which was adrift and taking on water in rough seas.

The crew of the patrol vessel 3016, Coast Guard Station Donghae, Republic of Korea Coast Guard, nominated by the Republic of Korea for the 63-hour-long rescue of 10 crew members of the fishing vessel 133 Samhwa which had suffered engine failure and lost communication in extreme weather.

Captain Yeonghwan Park, Master of the fishing vessel 2016 Sinaesan, nominated by the Republic of Korea for the rescue of the nine-strong crew of the sinking cargo vessel Hyundai Fashion. They had abandoned ship in dangerous waters and deteriorating weather conditions.

Captain Anatoliy Golev and the crew of the tanker NCC Najem, nominated separately by Saudi Arabia and the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), for their roles in the rescue in strong currents and high waves of 35 survivors who were found in the sea after their vessel capsized. They also recovered a body.

The team of the Fene Strategic Base (A Coruña), including the officer responsible for search and rescue and pollution response operations, and the diving intervention unit of Ardentia Marine, Maritime Rescue and Safety Agency. The team was nominated by Spain for the night-time rescue in rough seas of the only crew member of the capsized sailing vessel Jeanne Solo Sailor.

DCC Michael A Filippone, DC1 Rilee E Williams, DC2 William J Parker and DC2 Kevin B Smith, Damage Control Division of the USCGC Midgett, United States Coast Guard, nominated by the United States for their professionalism and diligence during the international rescue operation involving the Peruvian naval vessel BAP Guise which had caught fire.

Captain Sergey Vasiliev, Master of the M/V Nordic Qinngua, nominated by the Faroes, for the rescue in heavy seas and strong winds of two people who had abandoned their capsized rowing boat and were found in a life raft.

Seafarers' migrant rescues recognized

The bravery, professionalism and compassion demonstrated by crews of merchant vessels in the rescue of migrants at sea around the world has been recognized with 15 special certificates of commendation awarded to those nominated by Georgia, India, Marshall Islands, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

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