Time to Nominate Search and Rescue Heroes


By The Maritime Executive 07-04-2017 04:34:58

Every hour, every day 40 people around the world die by drowning.

The International Maritime Rescue Federation is calling for nominations for its H.E.R.O Awards, to recognize the unsung maritime heroes who battle against this frightening statistic, as the H.E.R.O award (Honouring Excellence in Rescue Operations) deadline approaches on July 28, 2017.

The H.E.R.O Awards were launched last year recognize anyone involved in maritime search and rescue who deserve recognition for exceptional service.

Last years' winners included Captain Herve Lepage, master of the CMA CGM Rossini 5,570 TEU container ship who responded to a distress signal from a catamaran capsized by a whale off the South African coast on October 18, 2015.  

Captain Lepage was also a member of the French Sea Rescue Service in his home town of La Rochelle, and it was thanks to his skill and expertise and the dedication of his crew that they were able to rescue the two men from the capsized catamaran's life raft.

Both yachtsmen were down below when the catamaran stopped and then swung hard to port. One of them rushed onto deck and saw a whale on their port side, by which time water was flooding into a large hole in the hull.   

They threw the life raft overboard and rushed to get emergency supplies only to find that the life raft rapidly drifted 200 meters away and they only had a small tender to reach it. They managed to grab an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) and transmitted a VHF mayday call, but the tender's engine failed, so they could not reach the life raft and as they watched, the catamaran capsized. 

The two men were left in the tender with winds approaching 50 knots, six to seven meter swells and night falling. During the night, a wave bigger than the rest flipped the boat over, and the men lost all supplies and flares apart from six days supply of fresh water.

Luckily, the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre at Gris Nez, a long way away on the north coast of France had received their emergency beacon signal and quickly alerted the South African MRCC, and a huge rescue effort began.  Five ships in the area were diverted to the position, and in the morning the East London Sea Rescue volunteers and a military Oryx helicopter was launched.

By the morning, the two yachtsmen could see the ships on the horizon, but they had now drifted a long way from the capsized catamaran. The first ships arriving at the wreck reported no signs of life and an empty life raft, but none followed the EPIRB signal which was drifting down the coast.

Captain Leparge, calculated where the EPIRB positions – despite a two-hour time delay – might suggest the yachtsmen would be. As dark was falling he made the decision to turn back along the drift line they had been searching and by sheer chance using binoculars, one of the crew spotted a flash of orange, the collar of the life jackets the two survivors were wearing.

The captain then had to skilfully maneuver the container vessel alongside the little yacht tender leaving the two crew only a few meters to paddle to the side of the ship. The younger man was able to make the swim and climb the rope ladder up the side of the ship, but the older man was too exhausted and lost his grip, falling back into the sea losing his life jacket. Refusing to give up, the container ships crew then managed to drop a helicopter strop on a rope over board that the older man could reach and somehow working together they managed to get him on board.

Bruce Reid, CEO, IMRF says; "This is just one example of an amazing action taken by the captain and his crew to find and rescue two yachtsmen against all the odds. The H.E.R.O Awards offer an invaluable way to raise awareness of the excellent work done by all those involved in the maritime SAR community, rewarding the selfless efforts and achievements of the many individuals who make sacrifices to save lives on the water.

"If you know of anyone who has done something extraordinary to save life at sea, I would urge you to nominate them for a H.E.R.O Award now. This may be someone who has actually taken part in a lifesaving mission at sea, someone in a coordination center or other shoreside role, or who has contributed to maritime search and rescue in a 'back room' role. The Awards recognize exceptional performance in SAR, both by individuals and organizations, all of whom are making a major contribution to SAR, progressing IMRF's mission to improve global maritime SAR and prevent loss of life in the world's waters."

The closing date for nominations is July 28, 2017 and there are four categories in the IMRF H.E.R.O Awards 2017;

 * Individual award recognizing outstanding contribution by an individual in a maritime SAR operation.
 * Team award, recognizing outstanding contribution by a team or teams in the maritime SAR ecosystem working together to save lives, sponsored by McMurdo.
 * Innovation and Technology award recognizing new products and technologies developed that improve the work and success of SAR organizations. 
 * The Vladimir Maksimov Lifetime achievement award recognizing outstanding service to SAR by an individual or organization, sponsored by Inmarsat.  

The H.E.R.O. Awards 2017 recognize actions that took place, or were completed, in the period from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017. Any individual or organization anywhere in the world can be nominated for a H.E.R.O Award.

All of the submissions will then be assessed by the judges and the winners announced at an awards dinner held at the RNLI, Poole in the U.K. and online, November 2, 2017. 

The H.E.R.O awards 2017 are supported by IMRF lead sponsor Orolia/McMurdo - global leader in emergency response and readiness and sponsor Inmarsat – global satellite owner and operator which provides mobile and fixed communications services to the maritime industry. 

Nominations can be made online at www.imrfhero.org/nomination-form alternatively email hero@imrf.org.uk or call 0044 (0)1569 767405 for an application form.