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Tanker Chief Officer Bo Xu Receives 2022 IMO Bravery Award

Tanker Chief Officer Bo Xu Receives 2022 IMO Bravery Award

IMO honours bravery at sea in annual Awards Ceremony.

The 2022 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea has been presented to Mr. Bo Xu, a chief officer from China who selflessly jumped from his oil tanker into freezing seas off northern China to save two individuals clinging to a life raft from a sinking cargo ship.

The 2022 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea has been presented to Mr. Bo Xu, a chief officer from China who selflessly jumped from his oil tanker into freezing seas off northern China to save two individuals clinging to a life raft from a sinking cargo ship.

Mr. Bo Xu was honoured during the annual IMO Award ceremony (2 November 2022). Mr Xu, Chief Officer of the oil tanker Jian Qiao 502, was nominated for the award by China.

Accepting his award from IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim to a standing ovation, Mr. Xu described the freezing waters and high waves during his “race against death” to save the people in distress.

“The sea could be cold and merciless but humans are not. As a seafarer, I will never hesitate to jump overboard to save people in danger,” he said, speaking through an interpreter.

“This award from IMO is not only an encouragement to me and my team, but also a recognition of China’s efforts in maritime SAR. In 2021 alone, China successfully rescued more than 13,000 people in distress at sea, which protected the happiness of tens of thousands of families,” Mr. Xu added. (To read Mr. Xu’s full speech, please click here)

The IMO Awards Ceremony (Photos here. Video here.) also saw a special tribute paid to former Secretary-General William A O’Neil and the presentation of the International Maritime Prize for 2021 to Professor David Attard.

Daring and determined rescue

Mr. Xu was recognised for his courage on the morning of 12 December 2021 when he acted spontaneously during a search for survivors from a sinking ship. Thirty miles northeast of Zhifu Bay in northern China, the cargo ship Tian Feng 369, caught in bad weather and heavy seas, flooded and began to sink.

The tanker Jian Qiao 502, en route to Port of Dongguan, immediately changed course to assist the vessel in distress. After searching for survivors for one and a half hours, chief officer Bo Xu spotted two survivors on a life raft which was filled with water and was drifting. The Jian Qiao 502 headed towards the raft, but the crew soon realised the two survivors were too weak to tie a rope securely around themselves.

Without hesitating, Mr. Xu jumped into the freezing waters and swam hard towards the raft, battling high waves and strong currents. After several attempts he reached the raft, hauled himself onto it and secured the rescue ropes to both survivors. With the help of other crew members on board the Jian Qiao 502, they were then successfully transferred to the deck of the tanker.

Back on board his ship, the chief officer promptly performed emergency resuscitation on both survivors, despite the fatigue and cold he was himself suffering. One of the crew rescued survived. The second, sadly, passed away due to hypothermia.

Certificates of Commendation

During the IMO Awards event, recipients of letters and certificates of commendation were also recognized.

The following certificates of commendation were presented:

  • The crew of SAR helicopter Rescue Cyclone Victor, Flotilla 33F, Lanvéoc Naval Air Base, French Navy, nominated by France, for the rescue in severe weather conditions and heavy seas of the entire crew of the sailing vessel Don Quijote, which was badly damaged. Lieutenant Guillaume Leman and First Master Romain Charton were present to receive the certificate. – photo
  • The crews of Indian Naval vessels INS Kochi and INS Kolkata, as well as those of tug/supply vessel Greatship Ahalya, for the rescue of 261 personnel (of which there were 18 casualties) on board the accommodation barge P-305, following its collision with an oil rig during cyclone Tauktae. The Master of the Greatship Ahalya Captain Sushil Kumar Singh received his certificate and Commodore Sameer Sanjay Pote, Naval Attaché at the High Commission of India in London, received the certificates on behalf of the Indian Navy crews. – photo
  • The crew of the fishing vessel Fukuseki-maru No.15, nominated by Japan, for the successful rescue of all 20 lives onboard the half‑sunken fishing vessel Bandar Nelayan 188. Mr. Riku Akiyama, from the Fisheries Department of the Fukuseki Maru company received the certificate on their behalf – photo.
  • Three crews of the Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, MA, United States Coast Guard; three crews of the 413 Transport and Rescue Squadron, Greenwood NS, Royal Canadian Air Force; and the crew of the CGCC Cape Roger, Canadian Coast Guard, nominated by the United States, for the international rescue operation of all 31 crew members of the fishing vessel Atlantic Destiny, which was on fire, unpowered, flooding and violently pitching and rolling. Commander Brian Kudrle, Petty Officer First Class Adam Niski and Petty Officer First Class Phillip Morales received their certificate and received the certificates on behalf of their Canadian colleagues. –photo
  • Aviation Survival Technician Second Class Juan Espinosa Gomez, Coast Guard Air Station Sitka, Alaska, United States Coast Guard, nominated by the United States, for the rescue of a mariner of the sailing vessel Ananda, amidst heavy seas and limited visibility caused by a powerful Alaskan storm. Petty Officer Second Class Juan Espinosa Gomez iwas at the ceremony to receive his certificate. – photo

Letters of commendation

Letters of commendation have been sent to:

  • The crew of rescue helicopter B-7309, Beihai Rescue Bureau, nominated by China, for the search and rescue operation of five fishers of the capsized fishing vessel Liao Zhuang Yu 65558.
  • The crew of the fishing vessel Zhe Yu Yu 82085, nominated by China, for rescuing five surviving fishers of the sinking vessel Shen Lian Cheng 707.
  • Captain François Lebon, firefighter of the Hazardous Environment Intervention Group (GRIMP), Departmental Fire and Rescue Service of Reunion (SDIS 974), nominated by France, for his actions during the co-ordinated rescue of 11 crew members of the grounded tanker Tresta Star.
  • Captain Kakha Bezhanidze, Master of the M/T Elan Vital, nominated by Georgia, for the co‑ordinated search and rescue operation of 10 survivors found in three separate life rafts after the sinking of the M/T Suvari H.
  • Aviation Survival Technician First Class Newsward K. Marfil, Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii, United States Coast Guard, nominated by the United States, for the rescue of two pilots forced to ditch their cargo aircraft into the Pacific Ocean.
  • Mr. Nguyen Van Hoa, Leader of the Anti-Drugs and Crime Team, Tan Thanh Border Guard Post, Provincial Border Guard Command of Binh Thuan, nominated by Viet Nam, for rescuing a swimmer swept away by fast-flowing currents.

Seafarers’ migrant rescues recognized
In recognition of the bravery, professionalism and compassion demonstrated by crews of merchant vessels in the rescue of migrants at sea around the world, IMO has this year issued three special certificates of commendation.

The certificates have gone to:

  • Captain Alen Gospić and the crew of the LNG carrier GasLog Glasgow, nominated by Croatia, for the crucial role everyone on board played in rescuing and assisting 17 migrants from a sinking boat in the Yucatan Channel.
  • Captain Jonathan G. Funa and the crew of the bulk carrier Cape Taweelah, nominated by the Philippines, for their vital role in rescuing and assisting 35 migrants from a sinking boat south of the Gran Canaria Island, in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Captain Neil Circulado and the crew of the oil/chemical tanker Hellas Revenger, nominated by INTERTANKO, for their critical role in rescuing and assisting 200 migrants from a fishing boat in distress in the Ionian Sea.

About the IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea

This annual award was established by IMO to provide international recognition for those 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. Such acts of bravery may also involve extraordinary skills in very difficult conditions or any other display of outstanding courage.

This year, a total of 31 nominations were submitted by Member States and non-governmental organizations in consultative status with IMO. The nominations were examined by an Assessment Panel, which includes representatives of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the International Maritime Pilots’ Association (IMPA), the International Federation of Shipmasters’ Associations (IFSMA), the International Salvage Union (ISU), the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).

The Assessment Panel submitted its recommendations to a Panel of Judges, consisting of the Chairs of the Council and Committees of IMO, which met in June to select the recipients of the Awards. The IMO Council, at its 127th session (11-15 July), endorsed the recommendations.