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IMO’s Bravery Awards Ceremony 2017

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IMO Headquarters’ impressive entrance; seamanship at its best

The International Maritime Organization Awards Ceremony 2017, which took place at IMO headquarters, was a dignified occasion with much cause for celebration of achievement by individuals in the shipping industry.  Dr. Evelyn Stefanaki was there with her camera: 

This year’s ceremony was in two parts: the 2017 award for exceptional bravery at sea; and the 2016 International Maritime Prize.

The latter was awarded to former Secretary-General of the IMO Koji Sekimizu for his contribution to the work of the international body over many years.

The Council unanimously acclaimed Mr Sekimizu, now designated IMO Secretary-General Emeritus, in recognition of his invaluable contribution to the work and objectives of the organization and the international maritime community as a whole. Mr Sekimizu had a long and distinguished career with the organization, culminating in his stewardship as secretary-general from 2012 to 2016.

He was nominated for his lifetime dedication to promoting safety of life at sea and protecting the marine environment, as well as his outstanding leadership and contribution to the work and objectives of IMO.


Mr Sekimizu received his honour with obvious pleasure, in the Conference Hall. Having worked for the institution for more than a quarter of a century he expressed his gratitude to council members for bestowing upon him the prize and to the government of Japan for nominating him.

In his acceptance speech he highlighted among other points, that “individual states should ensure implementation and enforcement of IMO conventions.” He stressed that this global system of responsibility-sharing is established by the intensive and continuous effort of the IMO in the past 16 years and that the IMO member maritime governance system is always under the pressure and threat of unilateral imposition of national standards which go beyond the established international standards. The IMO, he said, has been providing the effective forum for the international community and continuous constructive discussion to improve international standards.

From the acceptance speech of Mr. Sekimizu

He took the opportunity to raise the hot topic of migration by sea, stressing that arrivals continued over the last year (some 156,000 making their way across the Mediterranean), with nearly 3,000 people dead or missing. The fact that the toll was not much larger was thanks to the efforts of coastal services, navies and special rescue missions. This situation, he said, is expected to culminate in the adoption of a global combat endeavour on migration in 2018.

Mr Sekimizu accepting/receiving his award

The IMO council agreed that all those involved in rescuing migrants at sea should be recognised by the Secretary-General for their outstanding humanitarian efforts, and that crews of merchant vessels involved should receive the commendation of the IMO Assembly through Certificates of Special Recognition.

There were five specific nominations for incidents involving the rescue of migrants, two involving search and rescue professionals and three in which the crews of merchant ships played a crucial role.

The special recognition certificates went to: 

  • Captain Joshua Peris Bhatt and the crew of the CS Caprice – Campbell Shipping Company Ltd.
  • Captain Augusto P Buenaventura and the crew of the Hamburg Bridge – Ventis Maritime Corporation, K Line Ship Management Pte Ltd.
  • Captain Michael Christopher Bower and the crew of the OOC Jaguar – OOC Opielok Offshore Carriers GmbH & Co KG.
  • Captain Gabriel Goga and the crew of the tanker Okyroe – Product Shipping & Trading SA.
  • Captain Peter Griffiths and the crew of the Al Salmi – Kuwait Oil Tanker Company.

 Of 33 nominations, received from 16 member states and five non-governmental organisations, a further three received Certificates of Commendation and five received Letters of Commendation.

Certificates of Commendation were awarded to:

  • Boatswain’s mate first class Jacob M Hylkema, US Coast Guard, nominated by the USA.
  • Vice-captain Damir Rikanovic and Marina leader Kurt Dreyer, crew members of the passenger yacht Crystal Esprit, nominated by the Cruise Lines International Association.
  • Lee Gwang Hee, chief engineer of the fishing vessel 2015 Bogyeongho, nominated by the International Transport Worker’s Federation.

Letters of Commendation went to:

  • Captain Lu Guoqiang, master of the patrol boat Haixun0611, Lianyungang Maritime Safety Administration, nominated by China.
  • Captain Patrick Norrgard and the crew of the Norstream, nominated by Finland.
  • Captain Amir Janbod (posthumously), master of the Golafruz, nominated by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
  • The crew of the helicopter Pesca II, Galicia Coast Guard Service, and the crew of the rescue helicopter Helimer 211, Spanish Maritime Safety Agency, nominated by Spain.
  • The crew of the fast rescue boat Kiyem 5, Turkish Directorate General of Coastal Safety, nominated by Turkey.

IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at S

Finally, the 2017 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea was presented to two members of the Houston Pilots, Captain Michael G McGee and Captain Michael C Phillips.

 The citation said that the pair showed decisiveness, dedication and ship-handling expertise in averting a major tragedy when the ship they were piloting broke down and burst into flames after colliding with mooring dolphins, on 6 September 2016, as they were piloting the 247 meters-long tanker Aframax River in the Houston Ship Channel. As a result of their courageous actions, no lives were lost, serious damage to pier structures and petro-chemical facilities was prevented and a major marine pollution incident avoided.

The Captains accepting their Award

In their acceptance speech, the two men thanked the council and panel of judges for honouring them. They expressed their gratitude to the International Maritime Pilots’ Association for nominating them and the Houston Pilots for their support. “What happened on that night of the 6th of September last year”, Captain Phillips said, “was not something we were expecting to encounter while conducting our normal naval duties, neither do we train for or practice reacting to an event of this magnitude. We did not have a lot of time to think about what to do, we just did it. We do feel however, that we reacted as we did in part due to our background as State Pilots. By the very nature of our prescribed duties and responsibilities State Pilots must be assertive, re-trained and comfortable with taking control of the ship. Pilots would not normally sit back and wait for others to make decisions.”

From the reception at Delegates’ Lounge

The ceremony was followed by a warm reception in the Delegates’ Lounge where participants talked of industry challenges as they enjoyed drinks and canapes.


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