IMO Honors Crew of Product Tanker That Was Hit by a Houthi Missile

Marlin Luanda fire
Fire aboard the Marlin Luanda (Marine Nationale)

Published Jul 10, 2024 4:54 PM by The Maritime Executive


The International Maritime Organization has decided to give  this year's Exceptional Bravery at Sea award to two recipients: the crew of the tanker Marlin Luanda, which was hit by an anti-ship missile early this year; and the crew of the tug Pemex Maya, which rescued no fewer than six people from four vessels in the midst of a hurricane.

On January 26, the product tanker Marlin Luanda was under way from Suez to Incheon when she was hit by a Houthi anti-ship ballistic missile in the Gulf of Aden. The ship was laden with naphtha, a highly flammable petroleum distillate, and the blast ignited a fire in a cargo tank. The flames reached as high as 15 feet off the deck.

Capt. Avhilash Rawat mustered his crew at the port lifeboat station, as the starboard lifeboat had been destroyed in the explosion. Meanwhile, the crew's fire teams fought the fire with foam monitors and hoses. Even after using up all of their foam supplies, they continued to fight the blaze using seawater alone, until further help arrived. 

After about four hours, the merchant tanker Achilles (which had itself been attacked earlier in the day) arrived on scene to assist. It was followed by the French frigate FS Alsace, the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Carney and the Indian Navy's INS Visakhapatnam. These responders supplied the crew with more foam to keep fighting multiple reflashes.    

Capt. Rawat was advised to abandon ship by expert consultants, but he and his crew stayed in the fight to preserve the vessel, at great personal risk. The crewmembers were eventually aided by trained marine firefighters from INS Visakhapatnam, who boarded the vessel and helped put out the last of the blaze. The vessel survived, and after temporarily sealing a hull breach, it transited safely to a port of refuge under its own power. 

"The exceptional bravery, leadership and determination of Captain Rawat and his crew, along with the crucial support from the assisting naval forces, were pivotal in ensuring the safety of the crew, saving the ship and preventing a potential environmental disaster," concluded the award committee. 

The next award goes to the crew of the tug Pemex Maya, who braved extreme weather to carry out multiple rescues offshore. 

On October 25, 2023, Hurricane Otis approached the Pacific coast of Mexico. It rapidly intensified into a powerful Category 5 storm and barreled towards the city of Acapulco. 

The tug Pemex Maya was located in the Bay of Santa Lucia as the hurricane neared, but the crew - under direction of Captain Jorge Fernando Galaviz Fuentes - left the safety of their anchorage and headed out to sea in order to help vessels in distress. In the early hours of the 25th, they spotted three people in the water and successfully maneuvered alongside to rescue them, despite extreme winds and waves. They found another survivor - clinging to driftwood - and then two more, afloat with nothing more than lifejackets. Each time the tug had to maneuver into position and get close enough for a lifering throw, in fierce hurricane-force conditions. 

All of the survivors were in good condition, except for exhaustion and shock, and were transferred to shore for medical care. 

IMO also awarded certificates of commendation to the captains of the LCT Celeste and the Gabonese patrol boat Mayumba. Working together, they saved 123 out of 150 passengers and crew from the sunken ferry Esther Miracle in March 2023.