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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

2007 inaugural IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea

The inaugural IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea has been presented to two seafarers who risked their lives to save others in a dramatic rescue operation in gale-force winds. INTERTANKO adds its congratulations to the recipients of this new award.

Second Officer Mustafa Topiwala of the 83,155 dwt Bahamas-registered oil/bulk ore carrier Searose G (owned by B+H Equimar, an INTERTANKO member company) and Captain Zvonimir Ostric (who was on the vessel as onboard trainer at the time of the incident) were selected to receive the inaugural 2007 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea, in recognition of their part in the rescue of survivors from the sunken vessel Teklivka, in the eastern Mediterranean, in March 2006. They were nominated by the Bahamas and by the International Federation of Shipmasters' Associations (IFSMA).

Presenting the award, during a special ceremony in London held during the Organization's 25th Assembly, IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos said the award was "a tribute to extraordinary courage; to adversity faced and adversity overcome; to determination in the face of grave danger; and to lives risked and lives saved. The elemental nature of their working environment still occasionally places professional seafarers in the sorts of situation for which there can be little or no adequate preparation. How they respond is a test of true courage - courage that deserves to be acknowledged and recognised."


The Searose G was on passage through the Mediterranean, bound for the Suez Canal, when it responded to a distress call from the Maltese-flagged Teklivka, which was sinking 50 miles south in gale force winds. By the time the Searose G reached the scene, the Teklivka had sunk. Nevertheless, a dramatic rescue operation was launched and the Searose G managed to rescue nine crew members with a further three survivors picked up by another vessel. Tragically, three crew members of the Teklivka were lost.


The Assessment and Judging Panels considered that Second Officer Topiwala and Captain Ostric had placed their own lives in jeopardy, even though they were not trained professional rescuers, by undertaking acts that went well beyond the scope of their normal duties. They left the comparative safety of their ship, descending to a liferaft filled with oil and water. Second Officer Topiwala then jumped into the sea, in extremely hazardous weather conditions and reduced visibility, during the rescue, assisted by Captain Ostric.


A significant degree of skill was demonstrated by the master in manoeuvring his vessel in the severe conditions, further complicated by the need to avoid collision with containers floating in the sea. Throughout the operation there was excellent co-operation among the entire crew and this contributed to its success. The crew on the deck were at risk of being swept overboard or injured by seas breaking over the decks, while Second Officer Topiwala and Captain Ostric were also at great risk, as they could have been swept away by the particularly rough waters.


After eight oil-covered survivors had been picked up from a liferaft, the ninth was too weak to climb on the ladder and fell out of the liferaft into the sea. He was sighted floating face down, having previously removed his lifejacket. Second Officer Topiwala descended a ladder wearing a safety harness to assist the survivor in the water, assisted by Captain Ostric. The survivor was drifting unconscious by this time but was finally secured and brought on board the Searose G.

The IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea was established by the Organization 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 - and, by so doing, help to raise the profile of shipping and enhance its image.

For further information please contact:
Lee Adamson, Head, Public Information Services on 020 7587 3153 or
Natasha Brown, External Relations Officer on 020 7587 3274, both on