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Know a hero at sea? Time to nominate the world’s bravest seafarers!

28 Sep 2021
Credit: D.Marmolejo
Seafarers families are being encouraged to submit the brave seafarers they know in their lives for the upcoming Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea. Seafarers whose brave act is submitted to the ITF or through seafarers’ unions can be nominated for the top award from the IMO, and even runners-up can receive official commendation letters and certificates.

What are the IMO Bravery at Sea awards?

Officially called the ‘IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea’, the important Award and its associated letters and certificates are given to seafarers who are recognised for performing acts of extraordinary bravery during the nominating period, risking their own lives when attempting to save the lives of others or as part of efforts to protect the marine environment.

While seafarers can only nominate for the single top award, it’s not just one seafarer who gets recognised. Many of the runners-up for the top award are also recognised for their bravery and merit with official letters and certificates from the IMO.

The IMO explains that there are three ‘categories of honour’ that seafarers can be recognised in:

  • the ‘Award’ itself, for the nominee judged to have performed the most outstanding act of bravery
  • certificates of commendation for nominees who have committed acts of extraordinary bravery
  • letters of commendation for nominees who are judged to deserve some special recognition for meritorious actions

Who is eligible?

Seafarers who:

at the risk of losing their own life, perform acts of exceptional bravery, displaying outstanding courage in attempting to save life at sea or in attempting to prevent or mitigate damage to the marine environment

For acts of bravery which took place during the nominating period:

1 February 2021 – 30 January 2022

When do I need to submit by?

28 February 2022 to the ITF.

Why? Nominations from the ITF to the IMO will close by 1 April 2022, so you need to submit your brave seafarer to the ITF or ITF-affiliated seafaring union by 28 February to avoid disappointment.

Who can nominate a seafarer?

Technically, nominations for the awards may only be made to the IMO by UN member states (governments) and intergovernmental bodies that are recognised by the IMO (something called ‘consultative status’).

As the global voice for seafarers, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (the ITF) has consultative status at the IMO, and the ITF can therefore nominate seafarers to be recognised in the awards.

To help the ITF nominate brave seafarers, we’re asking you – seafarers and their friends and families – to submit your potential nominees to us.

How does it work? How seafarers get nominated and chosen for the awards:

Step 1: get nominated by the ITF

There are two ways to submit your brave seafarer for the ITF to nominate them for the awards:

Option 1: Contact your seafarers’ union

You can contact your (or your brave seafarer’s) union (such as AMOSUP, SIU, MUA, JSU, NSU or NUSI) and ask them to forward your request to the ITF.

Option 2: Submit your brave seafarer’s details to the ITF direct

Just email the ITF’s Accredited Representative to the IMO Branko Berlan

In your email please give us details of your brave seafarer and the event you would like them nominated for, including:

  • your seafarer’s name, nationality and ranking
  • the place and time/date of the event
  • anything else about them you’d like to add that makes their act exceptional, like their age, time onboard without a crew change, or any disabilities that they live with that made their act of bravery more challenging for them to undertake

The ITF then nominates all of the qualifying submissions we receive through seafarer unions and directly to the IMO, as official nominations. Nominations have to be with the IMO by April.

Step 2: Nominees are shortlisted by the IMO, ITF

Once nominations are sent by the ITF, governments and other bodies, the potential winners are shortlisted by an ‘Assessment Panel’. The panel’s collective job is to make recommendations to the deciding judges for who should win which awards.

The assessment panel is chaired by the Secretary-General of the IMO and it includes a representative from the ITF as well as other bodies. The panel is asked to think carefully and fairly about the nominees and who deserves to be chosen for the awards.

Step 3: Finalists are judged, winners are chosen

Finally, the judges meet. The judging panel is made up of the chairs of the IMO’s important committees, including the IMO Maritime Safety Committee, Marine Environment Protection Committee and Legal Committee. This panel, like the assessment panel, chaired by the Secretary-General of the IMO.

The judges consider the recommendation of the Assessment Panel and select the recipient of the Award. When they have chosen, they invite the winner of the highest award to a special ceremony at IMO in London “to receive a medal and a certificate citing the act of exceptional bravery performed”.

Who won last year?

The Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea 2021 (the top award) was given to a search and rescue officer from Vietnam, Mr. Tran Van Khoi, who heroically saved the lives of four people from a sinking cargo ship. The seafarer battled extreme weather and stormy seas to complete this daring mission.

A Certificate of Commendation was also awarded to another seafarer, Capitan Ritesh Madhusdan Bhamaria. He is a marine pilot who was working onboard the Godam for Torres Pilots, a piloting company operating in Northern Australia. Captain Bhamaria bravely saved the lives of two fishers in perilous shark-infested waters, upholding seafarers’ long-standing professional and humanitarian commitment to saving lives at sea whenever safely possible.

Why should I nominate a brave seafarer for the 2022 awards?

Nominations for IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea have now opened, and the ITF is encouraging seafarers and their families to start submitting the brave seafarers in their lives to the ITF for the award, certificates and letters available from the IMO.

It is important that seafarers are nominated for the award, especially this year given all that’s happened to seafarers through the pandemic and crew change crisis, said Branko Berlan - the ITF’s Accredited Representative to the IMO.

“Seafarers' have faced many complex challenges over the past 18 months. People need to nominate a seafarer for the 2022 award if they know of, or have heard of, a seafarer who has encountered risky situations and, in the face of those situations, shown exceptional bravery,” he said.

“The world’s seafarers have been keeping the world moving under very difficult conditions through the present pandemic and its associated crew change crisis. Through it all, seafarers have continued to demonstrate considerable bravery. Bravery is everywhere in this profession: let us recognise it!,” said Berlan.

Submit your brave seafarer now:

 Submit your brave seafarer to be nominated for the IMO Bravery at Sea Awards

In your email remember to give us details of your brave seafarer and the event you would like them nominated for, including:

  • your seafarer’s name, nationality and ranking
  • the place and time/date of the event
  • anything else about them you’d like to add that makes their act exceptional, like their age, time onboard without a crew change, or any disabilities that they live with that made their act of bravery more challenging for them to undertake

​​Branko Berlan, ITF Accredited Representative to the IMO (Credit: ITF)