Captain Radhika Menon, the master of an oil tanker who led a dramatic rescue of seven fishermen from a sinking fishing boat in the Bay of Bengal, was awarded the IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea on Monday.
This is the first time a woman has been awarded the top prize by the London-based International Maritime Organisation (IMO) – the UN’s specialised agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.
Also awarded at the IMO headquarters was BM Das, winch operator and diver of a rescue helicopter at the Indian Coast Guard air station Daman, for rescuing all 14 crew members of the merchant ship Coastal Pride, which capsized and eventually sank.
Menon was the master of the oil tanker Sampurna Swarajya when she led the rescue of the crew of the fishing boat Durgamma, which was adrift following engine failure and loss of anchor in severe weather in June last year.
The boat had lost power and was sinking, in fierce rain, wind speeds of 60 to 70 knots and 27-foot high waves. The fishermen were surviving on ice from cold storage after food and water had been washed away.
Through wave heights of more than 25 feet, winds of more than 60 knots and heavy rain, the second officer on Sampurna Swarajya spotted the fishing boat 2.5 kilometres away, off the coast of Gopalpur, Odisha, on June 22 last year.
Menon ordered a rescue operation, using the pilot ladder and with life jackets and buoys on standby. It took three arduous attempts in the lashing wind and rain before all seven weak and starving fishermen, aged between 15 and 50 years, were brought to safety on board the tanker.
Their families had considered them lost at sea, but they were reunited with their kin a few days later.
The annual Exceptional Bravery Award at Sea was established by IMO to provide international recognition for those who, at the risk of losing their own life, perform acts of exceptional bravery and display outstanding courage in attempting to save life at sea or in attempting to prevent or mitigate damage to the marine environment.