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Tran Van Khoi was honoured during the annual IMO Awards ceremony

A search and rescue officer from Viet Nam, who repeatedly risked his own life to save 12 others in a daring three-day long sea rescue, has received the 2021 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea.

Mr. Tran Van Khoi was honoured during the annual IMO Awards ceremony (6 December). Mr. Khoi, a Search and Rescue Officer of the Regional Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Center No.II, Viet Nam Maritime Administration, was nominated for the award by Viet Nam.

During the IMO Awards event, recipients of letters and certificates of commendation were recognized, as well as seafarers who have been impacted by the pandemic; and merchant vessels involved in the rescue of migrants at sea. A video film showed the recipients of certificates and the main award, since they were not able to attend in person.

At IMO Headquarters, Mr. Paul Sadler, former representative of Government of the United Kingdom to IMO and of IACS, received the International Prize for 2020. (Read more here)

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim highlighted Mr. Khoi’s “incredible act of determination and bravery that saved lives”.

Heroic search and rescue effort

Mr. Khoi was recognized for his actions over a three-day period (8-10 October 2020), when he repeatedly risked his life to rescue 12 crew members and some fishers trapped on board the sunken cargo vessel Vietship 01. The ship had been swept away as it was docking at the Cua Viet Port, due to widespread flooding and wind gusts of 74 km/h caused by typhoon Linfa. Mr. Khoi repeatedly swam through strong waves to perform the rescues. The judges were very impressed by his courageous actions and tireless rescue attempts which demonstrated truly exceptional bravery and determination.

“I am very honoured and moved to be nominated for the noble IMO award for act of exceptional bravery. I hope that with such recognition I can radiate the courage and bravery of the Vietnamese people, so that there will be more examples in the future for those striving to develop the country’s maritime industry,” said Mr. Khoi, in his acceptance video.

Mrs. To Minh Thu, Deputy Chief of Mission and Counsellor at the Embassy of Viet Nam in the United Kingdom, was at the event to receive the medal and certificate on behalf of Mr. Khoi.

Letters of Commendation

Letters of commendation have been sent to:

  1. The master and crew of the emergency rescue and response vessel Esvagt Cantana.
  2. The crews of the fishing vessels Takaei-maru, Hisaei-maru, Eiko-maru and Tomomaru.
  3. Ensign José Luis Sandoval Estrada, Chief of the Speedboat Squadron, of with the Naval Force of the Nicaraguan Army’s Puerto Cabezas Naval Base, Naval Force of the Nicaraguan Army.
  4. Captain Bogdan Rusu, Master of the M/V Cosco Malaysia.
  5. The master and crew of the oil tanker BW Rhine.
  6. Aviation Survival Technician Second Class Christopher A. Fisher, from the United States Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, United States Coast Guard.

Certificates of Commendation

The following certificates of commendation were issued:

  • Captain Ritesh Madhusudan Bhamaria, a marine pilot on board the M/T Godam, Torres Pilots, for rescuing two fishers who had been clinging to a wooden plank in treacherous sea conditions for more than 15 hours.
  • The members of the diving rescue team of the Guangzhou Rescue Base, Nan Hai Rescue Bureau: Captain. Huiguang Ye, Mr. Tianci Lan, Mr. Mingzhong Deng, Mr. Zhiwei You, Mr. Haile Zeng and Mr. Yuhui Zhong. They were nominated for the underwater search and rescue operation of nine crew members of the capsized, 129-metre-long bulk cargo carrier Hongxiang 819.
  • Members of the Azovo Chernomorsky Branch of the Marine Rescue Service: Mr. Anton Muradyants, Mr. Gambik Asaturyan, Mr. Denis Nikolenko, Mr. Kirill Vikulov and Mr. Konstantin Kendigilyan. They were nominated for preventing the sinking of the M/V April by identifying the source of water ingress and efficiently performing emergency works on a ship loaded with hazardous cargoes. 
  • The members of the DEGAK-20 diving safety, security, search and rescue team, from the Turkish Coast Guard Command: Mr. Doruk Durmuş Yildiz, Mr. Atakan Ömer Yenilmez, Mr. Erkan Baytekin and Mr. Olcay İbrahim Temeloğlu. They were nominated for the rescue of the crew of the capsized fishing boat Kumsal-55. 
  • Aviation Survival Technician First Class Joshua K. Mayfield of the United States Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City for the challenging rescue of two mariners from a sailing vessel which had lost power in bad weather.
  • Petty Officer First Class Wallace Qual, Coast Guard Station Yaquina Bay, United States Coast Guard, nominated by the United States, for the rescue operation of the master of the sinking fishing vessel Legend after multiple rescue operations had to be abandoned.
  • Lieutenant Justin Neal, Lieutenant Jonathan Orthman, Avionics Electrical Technician Second Class James Schwader and Aviation Survival Technician Second Class Grant Roberts, of the United States Coast Guard Air Station Sitka, for the search and rescue of the sole survivor of the sinking F/V Irony in complete darkness, storm force winds and 12-foot waves.
  • The teams from India and Sri Lanka involved in the rescue operation for the M/T New Diamond, which caught fire and was drifting towards the coast of Sri Lanka, laden with dangerous cargo. Indian nominees were rescue team members of the Indian Navy (Commander Raj Kishore, Lieutenant Commander A.V. Tomar, Chief Petty Officer P. Bhagwan, Petty Officer Sahil, Seaman First Class Sarvashakti); members of the Indian Coast Guard (Mr. Pradhan Adhikari S. Satish, Commandant (JG) B. Bhatt, Navik (RP) Abhishek Tomar, Navik (RP) Kaushik Nautiyal), Captain Mandjiny Malayalathan and crew of the tugboat Ocean Bliss. Sri Lankan nominees were crew members of the Sri Lanka Navy patrol boat SLNS Ranarisi (Commander KRGRS Rantenna, Lieutenant KGASM Wijerathne, Leading Engineering Mechanic DLK Mudiyanse and Able Seaman WGGU Senarathna).

Additional details of the incidents for which the 2021 recipients were nominated can be found here.

Recognizing seafarers impacted by the pandemic

IMO recognized the efforts of the many seafarers who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said, “Seafarers are fundamental for the global supply chain and the post-COVID recovery. Their rights to safe and decent work conditions must be recognized, respected and protected. IMO will continue working towards a wider designation of seafarers as key workers, access to vaccination and assistance of distressed seafarers through its dedicated Seafarer Crisis Action Team.”

Saving migrant lives

Special recognition to merchant vessels and their crew involved in the rescue of mixed migrants at sea was highlighted during the Awards event.

IMO Secretary-General Lim cited figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that show over 140,000 sea arrivals or attempted crossings in the Mediterranean alone so far this year, with more than 1,570 people dead or missing to date.

“We should recognize that coast guards, navies, search and rescue agencies and merchant vessels continue to rescue persons in distress at sea, acting in the best tradition of seafaring and ensuring the death toll is not even higher,” he said.

Two special certificates have been awarded to:

  • Captain Zhang Hui and the crew of the M/V Ocean Ang for the crucial role everyone on board played in rescuing and assisting 41 migrants from a sinking boat in the Aegean Sea. 
  • Captain Volodymyr Yeroshkin and the crew of the oil tanker Maersk Etienne for their vital role in rescuing and assisting 27 persons from a sinking boat in the Mediterranean. 

Watch the Awards ceremony here.

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