The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is seeking nominations for its prestigious annual Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea. Please see the Secretary-General’s Circular Letter 3586 below.
IMRF Members are invited to consider rescues in which they have participated, or of which they are aware, within the IMO’s qualifying period – 1 March 2015 to 29 February 2016 – and to submit appropriate nominations to the IMO as indicated in the Circular Letter and by the deadline, which is 15 April 2016.
The 2015 Award was presented to a US Coast Guard rescue swimmer, Christopher Leon, by IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu at a ceremony held at IMO headquarters in London in November. Christopher helped save four men from a sinking ocean-going rowing boat, Britannia 4, which had been taking part in the Great Pacific Race in June 2014. The race support vessel had been unable to reach the boat due to 30 knot winds and 15- to 20-foot waves.
The rowers owe their lives to the crew of CG-6531, from US Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco, in conditions compounded by darkness, lack of visual cues and breaking waves. A series of demanding recovery hoists initially rescued three of the men. When the helicopter had to leave the scene to refuel, Christopher remained with the fourth rower, huddled in the tiny bow portion of the swamped vessel. The two men protected each other from the breaking waves and freezing temperatures until the helicopter was able to return.
“I would especially like to thank the crew of the helicopter, pilots Scott Black and Jesse Keyser and flight mechanic Michael Spraggins,” said Christopher as he accepted the award, “Because nothing I do can be done without them. Everything we do is a team effort.”
Three of the rescued men were reunited with Christopher at the IMO ceremony. One, Sam Collins, said: “What Chris did was a completely selfless act: something quite special. Chris Leon woke up in the morning and no doubt brushed his teeth, had a normal day. And then, in the darkness of night, he launched himself off the side of a helicopter into gale force winds and over six metre high seas just to save our lives.
“Thank you, Chris. You really deserve this award for what was a truly exceptional act of bravery at sea.”