The 2014 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea will be awarded to Captain Andreas Kristensen and his crew of the Britannia Seaways, nominated by Denmark for their courage and determination in fighting explosions and fire on board the vessel, at great risk and danger to themselves.
The IMO Council, meeting for its 112th session in London, endorsed the decision of a Panel of Judges that their actions merited the top award, for saving the lives of the 32 people on board, preventing further damage to the ship and cargo and averting a major marine pollution incident.
The Council also decided that, of the other nominees or groups of nominees, from a total of 35 nominations, received from 12 Member States and one non-governmental organization in consultative status with IMO, three should receive Certificates of Commendation and nine should receive Letters of Commendation.
Britannia Seaways fire
The sounding of the fire alarm on board the Danish-flagged vessel Britannia Seaways, shortly after 7 p.m. on 16 November 2013, interrupted a routine voyage through heavy seas from Sørreisa to Bergen (Norway). Twenty crew and 12 passengers were on board the vessel, while the cargo included around 70 tonnes of diesel, aviation fuel and gasoline in jerrrycans and tank containers.
The fire broke out on the open deck due to shifting of cargo and evolved aggressively with explosive eruptions, with flames leaping 30 metres high. Captain Kristensen and his crew fought the fire for hours, battling extreme heat on a rolling ship, 70 nautical miles from shore, as fresh gales fanned the flames.
Captain Kristensen took the decision not to evacuate all non-essential personnel by helicopter, as this would have exposed the fire-fighting crew and ship to more danger, since facilitating the evacuation (slow speed, turning the ship windward) would have exacerbated the fire and risked further damage and possible pollution. Had the fire not been contained, there was a huge risk it would have spread to the maindeck below and raged out of control.
An explosion below deck caused the engine control system to break down but the crew succeeded in transferring operations to manual mode and kept the engines, auxiliary engines and fire pumps running, while controlling the huge amounts of water coming into the cargo holds from the firefighting.
Thanks to heroic team work, risking their own lives in intense heat to avoid a more disastrous outcome, Captain Andreas Kristensen and his crew managed to manoeuvre the burning ship and head towards the Norwegian coast, taking shelter behind some coastal islands. A firefighting vessel attended the ship from 1.30 a.m. and a firefighter team assisted from 4.30 a.m. with the fire finally extinguished shortly before 8 a.m., some 13 hours after it broke out.
Ceremony for 2014 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea
The Awards ceremony will take place at IMO Headquarters, on Monday, 17 November 2014 at the end of the first day of the 94th session of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC).
IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea
This annual award was established by IMO 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 are scrutinized by an Assessment Panel made up of members of non-governmental organizations in consultative status with IMO, under the Chairmanship of the Secretary-General. Subsequently, a Panel of Judges meets (under the Chairmanship of the Chairman of the Council, with the participation of the Chairmen of the Maritime Safety Committee, Marine Environment Protection Committee, the Legal Committee, the Technical Co-operation Committee and the Facilitation Committee) to consider the recommendations of the Assessment Panel and to select the recipient of the Award.
The recipient of the Award is invited to a special ceremony at IMO to receive a medal and a certificate citing the act of exceptional bravery performed.
There are three categories of honour: first, the Award itself, for the nominee judged to have performed the most outstanding act of bravery from among those described. Secondly, certificates of commendation are awarded to nominees who have committed acts of extraordinary bravery. And, thirdly, letters of commendation are sent to those nominees who are judged to deserve some special recognition for meritorious actions.