The IMO Council endorsed the decision of a panel of judges that the Brittania Seways crew

IMO Bravery at Sea Award Going to Brittania Seaways Captain, Crew

A container aboard the cargo ship caught fire Nov. 16, 2013, trapping 32 crew members and passengers. Norwegian helicopters were unable to rescue them, and the crew managed to extinguish the fire 13 hours after it erupted.

The International Maritime Organization announced that its 2014 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea will be awarded to Capt. Andreas Kristensen and his crew of the Britannia Seaways, who were nominated for it by Denmark for their courage and determination in fighting explosions and fire on board the vessel Nov. 16, 2013, in the North Sea. Bad weather prevented helicopters dispatched from Norway from rescuing the 20 crew members and 12 passengers; the crew managed to extinguish the fire 13 hours after it began and the ship reached Bergen, Norway, a few days later.

No one on board was injured during the emergency.

The ship was carrying equipment to Norway for a military exercise. It is operated by DFDS Seaways, a Danish shipping company.

The IMO Council, meeting for its 112th session in London, endorsed the decision of a panel of judges that the crew’s actions merited the top award "for saving the lives of the 32 people on board, preventing further damage to the ship and cargo, and averting a major marine pollution incident," according to IMO's announcement. It said 35 other nominations were considered.

According to IMO, the ship's cargo included around 70 tonnes of diesel, aviation fuel, and gasoline in jerrrycans and tank containers. "The fire broke out on the open deck due to shifting of cargo and evolved aggressively with explosive eruptions, with flames leaping 30 meters high. Captain Kristensen and his crew fought the fire for hours, battling extreme heat on a rolling ship, 70 nautical miles from shore, as fresh gales fanned the flames," its announcement states. "Captain Kristensen took the decision not to evacuate all non-essential personnel by helicopter, as this would have exposed the firefighting crew and ship to more danger, since facilitating the evacuation (slow speed, turning the ship windward) would have exacerbated the fire and risked further damage and possible pollution. Had the fire not been contained, there was a huge risk it would have spread to the maindeck below and raged out of control.

"An explosion below deck caused the engine control system to break down but the crew succeeded in transferring operations to manual mode and kept the engines, auxiliary engines, and fire pumps running, while controlling the huge amounts of water coming into the cargo holds from the firefighting. Thanks to heroic team work, risking their own lives in intense heat to avoid a more disastrous outcome, Captain Andreas Kristensen and his crew managed to maneuver the burning ship and head towards the Norwegian coast, taking shelter behind some coastal islands. A firefighting vessel attended the ship from 1:30 a.m. and a firefighter team assisted from 4:30 a.m., with the fire finally extinguished shortly before 8 a.m., some 13 hours after it broke out."

The awards ceremony is scheduled for Nov. 17.

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