United States Coast Guard search and rescue officer Caleb Halle to receive IMO 2023 Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea.


​Caleb Halle, Aviation Survival Technician Second Class of the United States Coast Guard (USCG), based at the Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, is to receive the 2023 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea.

Caleb Halle, Aviation Survival Technician Second Class of the United States Coast Guard (USCG), based at the Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, is to receive the 2023 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea, for his outstanding courage, endurance and determination shown during the rescue of the seven-strong crew of the tugboat Legacy in January 2023.

Four individuals or sets of nominees will receive certificates of commendation for their acts of bravery. A further 13 will receive letters of commendation.

The recipients were selected by a Panel of Judges, whose recommendation was endorsed by the IMO Council, meeting for its 129th session (17-21 July).

A total of 47 nominations were received for the 2023 award from 18 Member States, one Associate Member and three non-governmental organizations in consultative status with IMO.

Winner of the 2023 Exceptional Bravery at Sea Award

On 14 January 2023, the tugboat Legacy was en route towing a barge when its tow lines snapped in strong winds and heavy swells. The vessel and its crew of seven were adrift in violent rolling seas, 35 nautical miles (nm) off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland on the east coast of the United States of America.

After several unsuccessful rescue attempts by a USCG cutter, a helicopter rescue team was dispatched. Helicopter CG-6566 was to execute a rescue plan led by Aviation Survival Technician Second Class (AST2) Caleb Halle.

Once at the incident scene, the helicopter crew attempted a hoist operation from the stern of the Legacy. In hugely challenging circumstances, AST2 Halle was able to help one survivor to reach the rescue basket before determining it was unsafe to continue. He identified a safer location on the main deck and notified his crew to reposition. AST2 Halle ensured the safe recovery of two further survivors. Running low on fuel, the helicopter had to depart the scene. 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.

Helicopter CG-6024 reached the scene as darkness was falling, making conditions increasingly difficult. Communications between AST2 Halle and the helicopter were lost as it approached, and after several failed attempts to deploy its rescue swimmer, Mr Halle was able eventually to assist his colleague to reach the violently pitching main deck of the tugboat. Working together, they managed to hoist the four remaining tugboat crew to safety.

AST2 Halle conducted a final search inside the Legacy to ensure no one was left behind. A large wave hit the boat - and at this point the water-tight seal of his survival suit was damaged.   

As the two rescue swimmers were, themselves, about to be hoisted off the tugboat, it suddenly pitched violently upwards, throwing them both into the freezing and turbulent water, close to the tugboat propellors. AST2 Halle's survival suit was beginning to flood. The situation was critical, but once the helicopter was able to regain position, both rescue swimmers were finally winched from the sea.

The Panel of Judges agreed that, throughout the operation, AST2 Caleb Halle clearly demonstrated exceptional bravery and determination, despite the extreme conditions and the complexities of a multi-unit rescue, coupled with communications failures.

Mr. Halle was nominated for the Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea by the United States of America.

Certificates of Commendation

The Council agreed to award certificates of commendation to:

  1. 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.

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

  3. 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, which had caught fire, with flames quickly spreading due to strong winds. Twelve survived; sadly, one fisher lost his life.

  4. 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

Letters of Commendation will be sent to:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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

  12. 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.

  13. 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 in heavy seas and rough winds.

Rescuing migrants at sea

The Panel of Judges decided that 15 nominations of merchant vessels involved in the rescue operation of migrants, submitted by Georgia, India, Marshall Islands, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), will receive certificates in Special recognition for merchant vessels and their crew involved in the rescue of mixed migrants at sea (resolution A.1093(29)). The captain and crew nominated by India have already been issued with such a certificate.

Currently, only Member States can nominate crews deserving of recognition in the rescue of migrants at sea carried out by merchant vessels. Following an increase in the number of nominations received from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in consultative status with IMO, the Panel of Judges agreed that resolution A.1093(29) should be revised by the IMO Secretariat to allow the submission of nominations by intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) in cooperation with IMO and NGOs. The Council agreed to forward the revised draft Assembly resolution to the Assembly for adoption, to allow submission of nominations by IGOs and NGOs, as well as by Member States.