A rescue swimmer with the US Coast Guard has received the 2019 International Maritime Organization (IMO) award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea.
Petty Officer Michael Kelly was recognised for his courage, perseverance and skill in rescuing four survivors from the sinking fishing vessel Aaron and Melissa II, 70 miles off the coast of Maine, in November 2018. He battled extremely high winds and huge waves to swim to each survivor and get them winched to safety by a rescue helicopter.
Petty Officer Kelly accepted his medal and certificate at a special ceremony at IMO Headquarters in London on Monday 25 November. He acknowledged the teamwork involved in the rescue saying:
'I would not be here if it was not for the amazing skills of my crew. Their precision and focus allowed me to act as a tiny cog in the large process of search and rescue, that we are all so passionate about and train for daily. There is nothing more precious than human life and we all strive to go home to the ones we love.'
This annual award was established by the IMO in 2007 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.
General secretary of Nautilus International Mark Dickinson congratulated Petty Officer Kelly on his award and praised the annual awards as an 'opportunity to further acknowledge an appreciation for the work of seafarers, being a credit to the maritime industry going above and beyond the call of duty.'
During the award ceremony, four certificates of commendation were also presented:
- The members of the emergency rescue team of Guangzhou Salvage, nominated by China, involved in the rescue operation of the capsized dredger Rong Chang 8. The team rescued two people who had been trapped for 55 hours inside the dredger, which was drifting bottom up in the water.
- Corvette Lieutenant of the Naval Infantry Juan Mateo Cabrera (posthumously). He was nominated by Mexico, for sacrificing his own life while helping other crew members to abandon their helicopter, which had crashed into the sea during routine maritime surveillance operations.
- Captain Mioc Zeljko and crew of the M/V APL Vancouver, nominated by Singapore, for the bravery, determination and professionalism displayed while fighting a fire that broke out in a cargo hold and had quickly spread to the containers on deck. Captain Mioc Zeljko and his crew tirelessly fought the fire for more than 36 hours, keeping it under control until the arrival of fire-fighting tugs and the Vietnamese Coast Guard. As a result of their courageous actions, 24 lives on board were saved.
- Captain William Boyce and crew of the car carrier Green Lake, nominated by the United States, for the exceptional seamanship, tenacity and leadership demonstrated in rescuing seafarers from the car carrier Sincerity Ace who had been forced to abandon ship due to a fire on board that had quickly got out of control.