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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Tanker and Tugboat Crews to Receive IMO Bravery Awards

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

July 10, 2024

Source: IMO

Source: IMO

The 2024 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea is to go to two sets of nominees: the captain and crew of the oil tanker Marlin Luanda for containing a fire after the ship was struck by an anti-ship missile; and the captain and crew of the tugboat Pemex Maya for their rescue of six shipwrecked people from four different vessels during a hurricane.

Nominations were initially reviewed by an Assessment Panel and their recommendations were considered by a Panel of Judges, who ultimately selected the recipients of honors. The recommendations of the Panel of Judges were endorsed by the IMO Council, meeting for its 132nd session (July 8 to 12, 2024).

A total of 41 nominations were received from 15 Member States and three non-governmental organizations in consultative status with IMO.

Recipients of the 2024 Exceptional Bravery at Sea Award

Captain Avhilash Rawat and the crew of the oil tanker Marlin Luanda, nominated by the Marshall Islands, for their extraordinary courage, determination and endurance demonstrated while coordinating firefighting and damage control efforts to combat the fire that broke out after an anti-ship ballistic missile struck their vessel.

On the evening of January 26,, 2024, the Marlin Luanda, carrying 84,147 tons of Naphtha, was en route from Suez to Incheon when it was struck by an anti-ship ballistic missile. The explosion ignited a cargo tank, creating a significant fire hazard with flames exceeding five meters. Despite the damage, Captain Avhilash Rawat swiftly organized firefighting efforts, ensuring the crew's safety and maintaining the ship’s navigability amidst the chaos. With the starboard lifeboat destroyed, the remaining crew mustered at the port lifeboat station, ready for potential evacuation.

Despite the extreme danger and the constant threat of further attacks, the crew fought the fire using fixed foam monitors and portable hoses. The fire continued to spread, particularly affecting an adjacent tank, but the crew managed to contain it using seawater after foam supplies were exhausted.

After four and a half hours fighting the fire on their own, assistance arrived from the merchant tanker Achilles, and later from the French frigate FS Alsace and the United States frigate USS Carney, which provided additional firefighting foam and support, followed soon after by the Indian warship INS Visakhapatnam.

Despite relentless efforts by the Marlin Luanda crew, the fire reignited multiple times. The situation remained critical, and expert consultations suggested abandoning the vessel. However, Captain Rawat and his crew persisted. The turning point came when professionally trained firefighters from the Indian Navy boarded the ship. They managed to get closer to the fire due to their superior equipment and their efforts, combined with those of the Marlin Luanda crew, finally succeeded in extinguishing the fire and sealing a significant hull breach. Twenty-four hours after the missile strike, the Marlin Luanda sailed to safety under naval escort.

Captain Jorge Fernando Galaviz Fuentes and the crew of the tugboat Pemex Maya, nominated by Mexico, for their outstanding courage, seamanship skills and resolve displayed in the rescue of six shipwrecked persons from four different vessels, in extreme weather and heavy seas caused by a hurricane.

On October 25, 2023, hurricane Otis struck Mexico's Pacific coast as an unprecedented category 5 storm. It rapidly intensified from a tropical storm to a major hurricane in just a few hours, hitting Acapulco with winds exceeding 300 km/h and waves over five meters high. As the hurricane approached, the crew of the tugboat Pemex Maya, led by Captain Galaviz, prepared for the storm by securing their vessel in the Bay of Santa Lucia. The extreme conditions prompted the crew to navigate away from the coast and assist others in distress.

During the peak of the hurricane, the crew of the Pemex Maya remained vigilant, searching for survivors amidst the chaos. At 02:30 hours, they navigated towards light signals from three people in lifejackets fighting the turbulent waters and managed to rescue them carrying out complex rescue maneuvers in darkness. Shortly after, they rescued another survivor, who was found clinging to a piece of wood without a lifejacket.

Continuing their rescue efforts, two more shipwrecked persons were spotted an hour later adrift with lifejackets. The crew had to execute again risky maneuvers to rescue them with the help of lifebuoys. All six survivors were found to be in shock, exhausted, and suffering from bruises and scratches but fortunately without life-threatening injuries.

At dawn, with the worst of the hurricane over, the Pemex Maya anchored in Acapulco and the survivors were later transferred for medical attention. Hurricane Otis caused extensive damage to infrastructure and numerous fatalities in Acapulco.

Certificates of Commendation

The Council agreed to award certificates of commendation to:

Captain Jerôme Noël Mougoula Saguiliba, Master of the LCT Celeste, nominated by Gabon, for his exceptional ship-handling expertise and determination displayed in the search and rescue operation of 150 passengers and crew members of the sunken passenger ferry Esther Miracle. Captain Saguiliba received a distress call and, despite being near his docking point, did not hesitate to rush to the scene to assist. In challenging weather and against a six-knot current, the Celeste located distress rockets and, in coordination with the Gabonese Navy, proceeded with the rescue of survivors from seven life rafts, four of them no longer buoyant, amid hazardous debris. Captain Saguiliba expertly maneuvered his vessel to protect those shipwrecked from drifting objects and, as a result of his actions and resolve, 107 of the 123 survivors were brought to safety.

Lieutenant Crépin Manfoumbi Mengara, on board the rapid patrol boat Mayumba, Gabonese Navy, nominated by Gabon, for the exemplary leadership and persistence during the search and rescue operation of the Esther Miracle. On arrival at the scene, 30 minutes after the LCT Celeste, Captain Mengara organized and coordinated separate rescue teams to search for survivors in shark infested waters and at risk of injury by floating debris. His crew focused on those floating on the water first and, despite the challenging circumstances and distressing scenes, they managed to save the lives of 16 shipwrecked persons. The following day, Captain Mengara and his crew commenced recovery efforts, which lasted a month and involved grueling and hazardous conditions, to ensure no one was left behind. As a result of their continued efforts, the remains of 18 casualties were eventually recovered.

Letters of Commendation

Letters of Commendation will be sent to:

Captain Eduardo Mesquita Pedroso, Master of the container ship Monte Sarmiento, nominated by Brazil, for his leadership and decisive action during a critical firefighting operation, ensuring the safety of all 30 persons onboard while protecting the environment and the vessel’s property.
Commander Yong Li of the rescue vessel Hai Xun 06838, Law Enforcement Unit, Changshu Maritime Safety Administration, nominated by China, for his professionalism and determination demonstrated in the rescue of the 22 crew members of the bulk chemical tanker New Bright, which had caught fire after its cargo hold exploded and was drifting towards a river bridge.

Captain Hao Yang of the rescue helicopter B-7328, Dong Hai Rescue Bureau, nominated by China, for his courage, exceptional skill and great resolve demonstrated during the challenging rescue operation of the 14 crew members of the oil tanker Daiyou 69, after it suffered engine failure and was drifting and moving violently amid extreme weather conditions caused by Typhoon Haikui.

Captain Lingqi Zhang of the rescue vessel Donghaijiu 112, Dong Hai Rescue Bureau, nominated by China, for his professionalism and ship-handling expertise during two consecutive rescue operations of the cargo vessels Zhenghe 9 and Huahai 601, amidst high waves and gale force winds. As a result of his critical judgment and decisive actions, all 25 crew members were successfully evacuated.

Captain Frédérick Caurant, Sub-Lieutenant Loïc Taillardat, Warrant Officer Sébastien Richard and Warrant Officer Michaël Severino, helicopter detachment of Flotilla 32F, Lanvéoc Naval Air Base, French Navy, nominated by France, for their bravery and determination during the rescue of the bulk carrier Guyana, after it caught fire and was drifting and rolling in rough seas and strong winds, ensuring that all 20 crew members were hoisted to safety.

Captain Brijesh Nambiar and the crew of the INS Visakhapatnam, Indian Navy, nominated by India, for their courage and great resolve demonstrated in joining firefighting efforts onboard the oil tanker Marlin Luanda, which was struck by an anti-ship ballistic missile whilst laden with highly hazardous cargo.

Captain Benito A. Lucio, Master of the bulk carrier African Turaco, nominated by Panama, for his professionalism and exceptional ship-handling expertise demonstrated in the rescue of seven fishermen who abandoned their vessel, which was ablaze, and who had been clinging to fishing buoys for almost seven hours in rough seas.

The crew of the patrol vessel Lee Cheongho, Coast Guard Station Seogwipo, Republic of Korea Coast Guard, nominated by the Republic of Korea, for their tenacity and great resolve during the rescue of 11 crew members of the sinking cargo vessel Geumyang 6, in gale force winds and high waves, as well as for conducting a marine pollution prevention operation the following day.

The crew of the patrol vessel 522, Coast Guard Station Wando, Republic of Korea Coast Guard, nominated by the Republic of Korea, for their bravery and professionalism in rescuing 19 crew members of the oil tanker SM Jeju LNG1, as well as 43 passengers and 15 crew members of the passenger ferry KS Hermes, and for preventing a marine pollution incident, after the two vessels collided in complete darkness and were at a great risk of explosion and sinking.

Captain Lee Gil Un and the crew of the fishing vessel 1 SungBok, nominated by the Republic of Korea, for their courage and great resolve demonstrated during the night rescue of nine survivors from the fishing vessel Bobae, transferring them to safety before the vessel rapidly became engulfed in flames and sank.

Lieutenant Commander Subhasinghe Saia and the diving team of the SLNS Vijayabahu (P 627), Sri Lanka Navy, nominated by Sri Lanka, for their tenacity and expertise displayed in the underwater rescue operation of potentially trapped survivors among the 39 crew members of the capsized fishing vessel Lu Peng Yuan Yu-28. While no survivors were found, the team managed to recover the remains of two casualties.

The crew of the CGC Alex Haley (WMEC 39), United States Coast Guard, nominated by the United States, for their exceptional seamanship skills and team effort displayed during the heavy weather tow operation of the fishing vessel Aleutian No.1, which had lost propulsion and was drifting towards dangerous shoal, near an approaching cyclone. As a result of their tireless efforts over 32 hours, all eight fishermen were brought to safety.

BM2 Theodore Noah S. Kirkbridge, BM3 Christian V. Lorenzo, MK2 Anthony C. Mason and BM3 Kaleiopio E. Guth, Coast Guard Station Maui, United States Coast Guard, nominated by the United States, for their courage and professionalism displayed during the rescue of 12 persons fleeing the wildfires in Lahaina, Maui, who were trapped by the fire in the harbor area.

Lashawna J. Garnier, Emma C. Nelson and Christina A. Lovitt, co-Captains of the small passenger vessel Expeditions’ dinghy, nominated by the United States, for the bravery and decisiveness they demonstrated during the rescue of persons fleeing the wildfires in Lahaina, Maui. After rescuing two people stranded in the harbor, as well as the operator of the pleasure boat Kaulana, the co-Captains then volunteered to join forces with the United States Coast Guard and the vessel Trilogy II to assist in the evacuation of over 40 people trapped by the fire along the harbor break wall.

BM2 Joshua A. Marzilli, Coast Guard Station Maui, United States Coast Guard, and Travis DeWater, serving as rescue swimmer onboard the small passenger vessel Trilogy II, nominated by the United States, for their bravery and determination displayed during the rescue of persons fleeing the wildfires in Lahaina, Maui, directly contributing to the safety and survival of more than 40 people trapped by the fire.

Awards ceremony

The annual awards ceremony will be held at IMO Headquarters in London on December 2, 2024 during the 109th session of the Maritime Security Committee.