IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at sea


Backgound information

This annual award 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. Such acts of bravery may also involve extraordinary seamanship skills in very difficult conditions or any other display of outstanding courage.

Nominations are scrutinized by an Assessment Panel made up of members of non-governmental organizations in consultative status with IMO, under the Chairship of the Secretary-General. Subsequently, a Panel of Judges meets (under the Chairship of the Chair of the Council, with the participation of the Chairs 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.

Previous recipients of the Award

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Mr. Tran Van Khoi, Search and Rescue Officer of the Regional Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Center No.II, Viet Nam Maritime Administration, received the 2021 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea. Video - Photos - Press Briefing


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Mr. Marcio Santos Teixeira and Mr. Fabio Rodrigues Alves de Abreu, members of the São Paulo Pilots from Brazil (left), and Petty Officer Second Class Ralph Ofalla Barajan of the Philippine Coast Guard (right), received the 2020 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea. Video of the virtual awards ceremony - Press Briefing


Petty Officer Michael Kelly, a rescue swimmer with the United States Coast Guard, received the 2019 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea Video - Photos - Press Briefing


A rescue diver from China who made a series of underwater dives to rescue three people from a sunken cargo ship received the 2018 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery At Sea. Video - Programme - Photos - Press Briefing


Two maritime pilots, Captain Michael G. McGee and Captain Michael C. Phillips, from Houston (United States), who defied fire to bring a burning ship to safety, averting a major maritime catastrophe, received the 2017 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea. Video - Programme - Photos - Press Briefing


Captain Radhika Menon, Master of the M/T Sampurna Swarajya, nominated by the Government of India, for her display of great determination and courage in rescuing seven fishermen from the sinking boat Durgamma. The fishermen had been given up for dead after being adrift for six days, in fierce rain, wind speed of 60 to 70 knots and 27-feet high waves. Video - Programme - Press Briefing


The 2015 Award has been presented to Aviation Survival Technician Christopher Leon (United States), for risking his life to save four men from a sinking ocean-going rowing boat in a dramatic rescue in the dead of night in heavy seas in the Pacific Ocean. AST Leon was presented with the award at a special ceremony on Thursday 19 November 2015, when he was reunited with three of the men he rescued. Also on 19 November, certificates were presented to five sets of nominees (or their representatives). Photos - Programme - Details of nominations and acts of bravery - Speeches


The 2014 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea was awarded to Captain Andreas Kristensen and his crew of the Britannia Seaways, who were nominated by Denmark for their courage and determination in fighting blasts and fire on board the vessel, at great risk and danger to themselves. Video.


The 2013 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea was awarded to two rescue swimmers from the United States of America, for saving the lives of 14 crew members from the tall ship HMS Bounty, and, posthumously, to a seafarer from China who died trying to save the life of a ferry passenger.


IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea presented to Sergeant Janick Gilbert (posthumously), Master Corporal Max Lahaye Lemay and Master Corporal Marco Journeyman, crew members of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 424 (Transport and Rescue) Squadron, nominated by Canada, in recognition of the exceptional bravery which was displayed by them, in saving the lives of two Inuit hunters stranded in an open boat in icy waters near Igloolik, Nunavut, but which resulted, sadly, in the tragic loss of Sergeant Gilbert’s life; and Able Seaman César Flores, a rescue swimmer in the aerial detachment of the Chilean Navy, nominated by Chile, in recognition of the exceptional bravery which he displayed in rescuing seven survivors from the motor launch Rosita V, in Locos islet, Moraleda Channel, in extremely dangerous weather, and at considerable risk to his own life.


IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea presented to Captain Seog Hae-gyun of the Republic of Korea, Master of the chemical tanker Samho Jewelry. Captain Seog was nominated by the Government of the Republic of Korea for his heroic actions to keep his vessel and crew safe, while suffering vicious assaults, following a hijack by pirates off the coast of Somalia (Photos)


IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea presented to Mr. James 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.


IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea presented to a professional rescue swimmer, Aviation Survival Technician Second Class Abram A. Heller, who, in Arctic conditions, single-handedly rescued eight crew members of a foundered vessel in the Bering Sea, and to two amateur sailors who rescued three people from a sunken yacht in very heavy weather off a remote South Pacific coral reef.


IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea presented to Brazilian seafarer Mr. Rodolpho Fonseca da Silva Rigueira, of the drill ship Noble Roger Eason for his heroic actions in saving fellow crew members from an explosive fire on a ship.


Inaugural IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea presented to Second Officer Mustafa Topiwala of the oil/bulk ore carrier Searose G and Captain Zvonimir Ostric (who was on the vessel as onboard trainer at the time of the incident) for dramatic rescue of Teklivka crew.