A 72 year-old survivor from a yacht that sank off Australia in appalling weather conditions last year, was reunited with his rescuer in an emotional ceremony held on 24 November 2010 at the Headquarters of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
Dr. Jerome Morgan, of the United States, was on hand to thank personally Fijian seaman James Fanifau when the latter received, from IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, the 2010 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea for his part in plucking Dr. Morgan from the sea in a highly dangerous rescue operation.
Dr. Morgan, who was accompanied at the ceremony by his two sons, said: “I would not be standing here before you today if it were not for the courage and bravery of James Fanifau. James braved the violent storm that dark night to reach out for me and deliver me from the certain jaws of death, so that I would be able to see my beloved family again.”
Mr. Fanifau, who was, at the time, Fourth Engineer of the Singapore-flagged general cargo ship Scarlett Lucy, received the Award for his part in the dramatic rescue of two survivors, including Dr. Morgan, from the yacht Sumatra II, in May 2009, amid severe weather conditions in the Tasman Sea. A panel of eminent maritime professionals adjudged Mr. Fanifau to have displayed extraordinary bravery and humanitarian concern far beyond the normal call of duty.
The Scarlett Lucy had responded to a broadcast from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s Rescue Coordination Centre, alerting ships in the vicinity to a distress call some 350 nautical miles east of Brisbane. There were two people on board the yacht, which was taking on water and sinking, Weather conditions were very poor, with rough seas, waves up to eight metres high and low visibility. The distance offshore meant that a rescue helicopter could not be utilized.
As the rescue unfolded, Dr. Morgan’s fellow yachtsman was able to scramble up a boarding net to reach safety aboard the Scarlett Lucy. But Dr. Morgan drifted in the water for some 45 minutes as the crew of the Scarlett Lucy attempted to utilize life rings to bring him on board. Finally, Mr. Fanifau, placing himself in great danger and exhibiting little regard for his own personal safety, went over the side of his ship to pull the exhausted elderly man from the water and carry him to the safety of the vessel.
Having been nominated for the Award by the Government of Australia, Mr. Fanifau accepted it with heartfelt thanks and said that it was wonderful to see Dr. Morgan again.
“I had no idea that it would come to this when I climbed down the side of our ship to give
Dr. Jerome a helping hand. I just acted instinctively, like anyone else, and I would do the same all over again if I had the chance,” he said.
Secretary-General Mitropoulos said that presenting the Award to Mr. Fanifau had particular resonance in 2010, during IMO’s “Year of the Seafarer”, adding: “May James’s act inspire others who may find themselves faced with the same dilemma he was put to: to risk or not to risk. Let him become a role model for young people: for his decisiveness, his gallantry, his sense of self-sacrifice, his professionalism and his modesty. And let those who aspire to make a career at sea be motivated by James’s example when honouring one of the highest and noblest traditions at sea: to risk your life so that others may live!”.
(Mr. James Fanifau receives the 2010 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea from IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos. Behind him are (left) His Excellency Mr. John Dauth LVO, Australian High Commissioner and Permanent Representative of Australia to IMO, (right) His Excellency Mr. Pio Bosco Tikoisuva, Fijian High Commissioner)
The Award takes the form of a silver medal depicting, on one side, a search and rescue operation with a sinking ship in the background and a helicopter rescuing survivors from the sea in the foreground, with the IMO logo on the reverse side.
Certificates to highly commended nominees
In addition to the Award itself, certificates were also presented during the ceremony to the following “highly commended” nominees or their representatives:
• The crew of the fishing boat Zhe Ping Yu 2325, nominated by China, for their speedy response, with limited search and rescue experience, in recovering four crew members from a liferaft of the sunken cargo ship Dong Hai 1818, in heavy seas and bad visibility, in September 2009. They then continued the search operation until the remaining three crew members had also been rescued.
• Petty Officer (PO2) Samuel B. Boniol, PO3 Anifer S. Bucao, SN1 Oliver S. Cogo and SPO3 Loreto F. Justo, Task Force Sea Marshals (TFSM), nominated by the Philippines, for their actions while on duty onboard the Super Ferry 9, when it capsized and sank in September 2009. Following the order to abandon ship, they assisted with the evacuation and disembarkation of the passengers, shepherded them to their rescue and were the last to leave the severely listing ferry.
• Coxswain Myck Jubber, Crewmember Kobus Meyer and Crewmember Kim Germishuys of the rescue boat Spirit of Rotary-Blouberg, Station 18, Melkbosstrand, National Sea Rescue Institute of South Africa, nominated by South Africa, for assisting in the rescue of the crew of the bulk carrier Seli 1, which was being swept to shore by stormy seas in Table Bay, after breaking its anchor link while awaiting engine repairs, in September 2009. Operating in extreme sea and weather conditions close to the operational limits of their craft, the nominees succeeded in evacuating the stricken vessel's crew of 25 to the safety of another rescue craft.
• AST3 Michael C. Romano, a helicopter rescue swimmer and emergency medical technician, from Air Station Atlantic City, United States Coast Guard, nominated by the United States, for his actions in April 2009 in preventing a crew member of the fishing vessel Andy II from drowning in freezing seas after a hoist parted during a medical evacuation, in hazardous night conditions, dropping the patient overboard. Mr. Romano swam to the immobile patient and kept him afloat in stormy seas until the helicopter crew were able to make an emergency repair and hoist the two out of the water.
Letters of Commendation
Furthermore, letters of commendation were sent to the following nominees:
• Officers of the patrol vessel 31321, Changjiang Maritime Safety Administration, nominated by China, for persevering for some 20 hours to rescue five crew members from the overturned cargo ship YuLuoHe 1111, in severe weather conditions, in June 2009.
• The team of rescue swimmers of the Israel Defence Force (IDF), nominated by Israel, for the rescue of six persons from the sea, after the general cargo vessel Salla 2 had foundered, by swimming to the survivors and hoisting each one individually, in conditions of poor visibility, floating debris and extremely heavy weather, in December 2009.
• The Master and crew of the merchant vessel Dorian, nominated by Liberia, for the rescue, in heavy weather, of 77 people from the sinking small coastal passenger/cargo ship Lle D'Anjouan, some 120 miles south east of Dar es Salaam, in an area known for pirate activity, in April 2009.
• Negeri Sembilan Fire and Rescue Department, Malaysia (FRDM), nominated by Malaysia, for effective fire fighting and search and rescue response measures by 80 fire fighters, who succeeded in putting out a fire on the oil tanker MT Formosa Product Brick, which had been seriously damaged by an explosion and fire, following a collision with a bulk carrier in August 2009.
• AB (Maritime Police) Gustavo Castrillon and AB (Maritime Police) Juan Almada, Sub-prefecture, Port of Santiago Vázquez, Coastguard of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay, nominated by Uruguay, for the rescue of three children aged 6, 7 and 11, and two adults, suffering hypothermia and panic, after their yacht capsized, requiring the two officers to leave their rescue craft to reach the survivors and rescue them one by one over a rocky seabed, in poor weather conditions, in September 2009.
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 in attempting to save life at sea or in attempting to prevent or mitigate damage to the marine environment – and, by so doing, help to raise the profile of shipping and enhance its image.
IMO – the International Maritime Organization – is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.
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