Monday, August 6, 2007

2007 inaugural IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea

2007 inaugural IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea to be awarded to Searose G seafarers for dramatic rescue of Teklivka crew

( Left, Rescued Tanker Crew Covered in Oil Photo Courtesy Searose G)

Council - 98th session: 25-29 June 2007

Two officers from the 83,155 dwt Bahamas-registered oil/bulk ore carrier Searose G have been selected to receive the inaugural 2007 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea, in recognition of their part in a dramatic rescue in severe weather.

The IMO Council, at its 98th session in London, agreed with two Panels of international assessors and judges that Second Officer Mustafa Topiwala of the Searose G and Captain Zvonimir Ostric (who was on the vessel as onboard trainer at the time of the incident) had displayed exceptional bravery in the rescue of the remaining survivors from the sunken vessel Teklivka, in the eastern Mediterranean, in March 2006. They were nominated by the Bahamas and by the International Federation of Shipmasters' Associations (IFSMA).

The Bahamas-registered Searose G was on passage through the Mediterranean, bound for the Suez Canal, when it responded to a distress call from the Maltese-flagged Teklivka, which was sinking 50 miles south in gale force winds. The Teklivka had sunk when the Searose G reached the scene but a dramatic rescue ensued, with Searose G rescuing nine crew and another vessel picking up three crew members. Tragically, three crew members of the Teklivka were lost.

The assessment and judging panels considered that Second Officer Topiwala and Captain Ostric placed their own lives in jeopardy, even though they were not trained professional rescuers, by undertaking acts that went well beyond the scope of their normal duties. They left the comparative safety of their ship, descending to a liferaft filled with oil and water. Second Officer Topiwala then entered the sea, in extremely hazardous weather conditions, during the rescue.

Mr. Topiwala and Captain Ostric will be invited to receive the award at a special ceremony to be held during the IMO Assembly, to be held from 19 to 30 November 2007 in London. They will each receive a medal and a certificate citing the act of exceptional bravery performed.

"I am delighted that the assessment and judging of nominations for this inaugural Bravery Award has met the high expectations of all concerned and that we have, in Second Officer Mustafa Topiwala and Captain Zvonimir Ostric, truly exemplary and meritorious winners," IMO Secretary-General Mr. Efthimios E. Mitropoulos said. "I congratulate them both wholeheartedly and look forward to doing so personally, at the Award ceremony during the IMO Assembly."

Mr. Mitropoulos noted that the Award was launched "so that the international maritime community could honour the very best of human qualities - bravery, courage, selflessness - and there is no doubt that all other nominees for the 2007 Award have also shown just that and are deserving of our respect."

The IMO Council agreed with the recommendations of the assessment and judging panels that the following nominees, the first two of which were also shortlisted for the Award, should be recognized by receiving certificates citing their respective acts of bravery:

  • The Hong Kong Government Flying Service, nominated by China, for courageous actions that went well above those expected of a professional rescue service. The assessment and judging panels considered that members of the Hong Kong Government Flying Service clearly risked their own lives to rescue 91 crew members of the vessel Wing on IV and the barge Hai Yang Shi You 298 (in August 2006) during the course of three consecutive aircraft/helicopter operations carried out in severe typhoon weather conditions, at some 170km and 132km southwest of Hong Kong, China, respectively.
  • Captain Xufeng Zu of the diving squad of Quinghuangdao Base of Beihai Rescue Bureau of China Rescue and Salvage (CRS). Captain Xufeng Zu was nominated by the International Lifeboat Federation (ILF) for a selfless act of bravery in August 2006. During the course of a professional operation involving two consecutive dives to locate and rescue the crew from the upturned hull of the capsized bulk carrier Fu Hua 1 (41 miles off Quinghuangdao, China), Captain Zu gave up his own breathing equipment, with no guarantee that he would survive, thereby placing his own life at risk so that two remaining survivors could be saved, before he himself was able to leave the stricken vessel.
  • Dr. Christine Jane Bradshaw (a civilian nominated by the ILF), for descending on a winch in rough weather, having been to sea only once before in benign conditions, to assist in treating and rescuing the last surviving crew member of the tanker FR8 Venture, in the Pentland Firth, Scotland, in November 2006;
  • The crew of the ocean-going rescue tug Nanhaijiu III, of Nanhai Rescue Bureau (nominated by China), for a series of successful rescue missions since the rescue tug was put into service in March 2006, including the location and rescue of 14 small Vietnamese fishing boats during typhoon Chanchu, in May 2006;
  • Mr. Brett Churcher, skipper of the fishing boat Striker (nominated by ILF), for prompt and effective actions which led to the saving of the lives of a man and his four-year old daughter off Cape Palliser, New Zealand, in April 2007;
  • The crews of the fast action lifeboats and vessels of the Spanish Maritime Safety Agency (nominated by Spain), for a series of successful operations to locate and recover safely, thousands of migrants at sea. Between March 2006 and February 2007, 30,493 migrants were assisted by the Spanish rescue services in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean;
  • Viktors Timoscenko, Master of the Latvian-registered tanker Ance (nominated by IFSMA), for persisting in the successful rescue of two persons adrift on a catamaran, after other efforts had been called off, during an operation that lasted almost 14 hours at night time, some 834km off Cape Cod, United States, in November 2006; and
  • Station Officer Kekoi Jaiteh, of the West Gambia Fire Department (nominated by ILF), for actions which resulted in the saving of the captain and three crew members from a capsized cargo vessel in rough inshore waters, in January 2007.

The IMO Council endorsed the view of the judging panel that the 11 remaining individuals or services that had also been nominated for the 2007 Award should each receive a letter of commendation.

The IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea was established by the Organization to provide international recognition for those who, at the risk of losing their own life, perform acts of exceptional bravery, displaying outstanding courage in attempting to save life at sea or in attempting to prevent or mitigate damage to the marine environment.

Nominations for 21 acts of bravery were received for the 2007 Award, from nine Member States and three non-governmental organizations in consultative status. The nominations focused on such factors as location of the incident; prevailing weather conditions; skill displayed; leadership demonstrated; determination to conduct the rescue operation; exceptional courage demonstrated; and degree of risk (to human lives and/or the marine environment) involved.

The nominations were scrutinized initially by the Assessment Panel made up of members of non-governmental organizations* in consultative status with IMO, which met at IMO on 30 May 2007, under the chairmanship of the Secretary-General.

The Panel of Judges met at IMO Headquarters on 22 June 2007 (under the chairmanship of the Chairman of the IMO Council, and with the participation of the Acting Chairman of the Maritime Safety Committee and the Chairmen of the Marine Environment Protection Committee, the Legal Committee and the Facilitation Committee) to consider the recommendations of the Assessment Panel and to select the recipient of the Award.

* The International Shipping Federation Limited (ISF); the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU); the International Maritime Pilots' Association (IMPA); the International Federation of Shipmasters' Associations (IFSMA); the International Salvage Union (ISU); the International Lifeboat Federation (ILF); and the International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA).