IMO Honors Two Crewmen for Deepwater Horizon Rescues

Chief Engineer Anthony Gervasio and Qualified Member of the Engineering Department Louis Longlois of the Damon B. Bankston received certificates as part of the International Maritime Organization’s Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea 2011 presentation.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) honored numerous mariners on Nov. 21 when it presented its Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea 2011 to Capt. Seog Hae-gyun, master of a chemical tanker, who protected his ship and crew when pirates captured it in the Indian Ocean. IMO gave certificates to several other nominees, including Chief Engineer Anthony Gervasio and Qualified Member of the Engineering Department Louis Longlois of the offshore supply boat Damon B. Bankston for their heroism in rescuing survivors after a devastating explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in April 2010.

Gervasio and Longlois "directly saved 23 lives, locating people in the water amidst flames and debris raining down. They went on to assist in the rescue of another 92 people from the rig's lifeboats," according to IMO.

Seog accepted the award in person from IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos during a ceremony held at IMO headquarters in London. A Korean who was master of the chemical tanker Samho Jewelry, he was seriously injured by pirates who boarded the ship in January 2011.

IMO's account says the pirates held the crew on the bridge. "Over two days, Captain Seog steered the ship on a zig-zag course, so that the pirates would not realize that the vessel was actually heading away from, instead of towards, Somali waters. He contaminated the fuel so the engines would not work normally, pretended the steering gear was malfunctioning and slowed the ship's speed from 14 knots to six, to keep her out of Somali waters for as long as possible, thus maximizing the potential for units of the Republic of Korea Navy to attempt a rescue. However, the pirates became suspicious that some of Captain Seog's actions were intended to outwit them and they brutally assaulted him, causing serious fractures to his legs and shoulders," it says. "While all this was happening, the pirates ordered him to communicate information about the incident to his shipping company in English, via satellite. Captain Seog surreptitiously inserted information in Korean about the true situation -– information that proved vital for the Navy of his country to plan, and execute, a rescue operation. On 21 January, as the sun came up, the Republic of Korea Navy destroyer Choi Young launched a rescue operation, which they named 'Dawn of the Gulf of Aden.' By 06.30 on that day, the attack team had gained full control of the bridge. During this time, Captain Seog, despite his injuries, managed to send out an urgent message via VHF, warning the boarding party that there were three pirates at the steering wheel.

"The already-injured Captain Seog survived being shot four times, including twice in the abdomen, by pirates firing in revenge. Having received emergency treatment from the Special Assault Commando, he was transported by means of an inflatable craft and a helicopter to the Sultan Qaboos Hospital in Oman. Meanwhile, the Republic of Korea naval forces involved in the assault continued operations on the ship, and all 21 crew members eventually were freed. In all, eight pirates were killed and five captured."

Mitropoulos said Seog's bravery deserved the top honor this year, "when piracy has been at the epicenter of our activities, spurring and motivating us to orchestrate a credible response to its menace. Captain Seog Hae-gyun was confronted not by the elements that nature can throw at men and ships, but an even more insidious danger: that of pirates threatening him, his crew, and his ship. In response, he acted with quick thinking, courageously, decisively, and with extreme bravery to protect all those whose lives depended on him and his decisions. His selfless reaction left him with severe injuries and nearly cost him his life," Mitropoulos added.

Other honorees included:

  • Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres Falmouth (United Kingdom) and Stavanger (Norway) for their contribution to search and rescue operations in distant areas over many years
  • Capt. Cao Deguang, master of the rescue vessel Bei Hai Jiu 111, Bei Hai Rescue Bureau, Ministry of Transport, China, for rescuing all six crewmen on a bauxite carrier in December 2010 after high winds ripped off its hatch covers and the ship began taking on water
  • The crew of the container ship Charlotte Maersk for saving their ship and its cargo by extinguishing a major fire in July 2010 shortly after the vessel left Port Klang, Malaysia
  • The crew of Coast Guard rescue helicopter 6022, U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, and rescue swimmer AST2 Sara Faulkner for a night rescue of three people from the yacht Arktur off the Bahamas in December 2010

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