Captain Radhika Menon, master of the oil tanker Sampurna Swarajya will receive the 2016 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea – setting precedent as the first female recipient of the honour.
Captain Menon, who is already used to setting milestones as the first female captain in the Indian Merchant Navy, was nominated for the IMO award by the Government of India for her role in “the rescue of seven fishermen from a sinking fishing boat in tumultuous seas”.
Fishing boat Durgamma was adrift following engine failure and loss of anchor in severe weather in the Bay of Bengal in June last year. Food and water had been washed away and the crew of seven fishermen were said to be surviving on ice from the cold storage.
Through seven metre waves, winds of more than 60 knots and heavy rain, the second officer on the Sampurna Swarajya spotted the boat 2.5 kilometres away, off the coast of Gopalpur, Orissa.
Captain Menon immediately ordered a rescue operation, utilising the pilot ladder and with life jackets and buoys on standby. It took three attempts in the lashing wind and rain and heavy swells before all seven weak and starving fishermen, aged from 15 to 50 years, were brought to safety on board the ship. Although the men’s families had already considered them to be lost at sea, but thanks to the rescue led by captain Menon, they were reunited with their loved ones a few days later.
The IMO Council, meeting for its 116th session in London, endorsed the decision of a panel of judges that Menon displayed great determination and courage in leading the difficult rescue operation. The Awards ceremony is expected to take place at IMO Headquarters, on 21 November, at the end of the first day of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC).