A rescue diver from China who made a series of underwater dives to rescue three people from a sunken cargo ship, received the 2018 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea during the this year’s IMO Awards ceremony last week.

Mr. Zhong Haifeng, senior diver and deputy of the Engineering Team of Guangzhou Salvage was recognized for his tireless efforts under highly dangerous circumstances, repeatedly diving into the dark and submerged cargo hold of a ship to bring out survivors. He was nominated for the award by the Government of China.

Mr. Zhong said it was an honour to be conferred the award, as a confirmation of China’s efforts in search and rescue and a huge encouragement to his team and to himself.

“In China in our business we have a motto: Prompt a hope of living unto others. And save the risks of death to ourselves,” Mr. Zhong said (speaking through an interpreter).

He stated further: “It is this motto that spurs our divers. To dive again and again, over and over, into the waters, to save those in danger from the brink of death. Every time, I saw the people who are saved. We looked into their eyes. We saw despair change into hope. We witnessed them breaking into tears. It is in that moment that our heart was filled with all type of emotions.

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“I love my job. I love diving, because, at the critical moment, we can save people’s lives. The pride is mine. The glory is mine. I think I will carry on. I would like to share my experience and my zest with more colleagues. Therefore our salvation teams can become stronger and stronger. Yes of course, I most sincerely wish more and more people could pay more attention to safety, protect themselves and protect their lives. Last but not least, I would like to sincerely express my appreciation to you,” he said.

The incident occurred in November 2017. Following a collision with another ship, in Guangzhou Port, China, the bulk carrier M.V.Jin Ze Lun sank. Of the 14 crew on board, two were immediately rescued by local maritime authorities but 12 remained missing. The bulk carrier was lying on the seabed, in the main channel into the port, and a strong current made the underwater search and rescue operation extremely difficult.

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Mr. Zhong was put in charge of the desperate search for survivors. After 36 hours of repeated dives, six survivors were located, trapped in the cargo hold. Mr. Zhong instructed his team to replenish oxygen to the cabin and talk to the trapped survivors, to calm them.

Mr. Zhong then dived down to the cargo hold alongside a teammate, bringing scuba diving equipment for those trapped underneath. In the afternoon of 28 November, Mr. Zhong dived down six times. He taught survivors how to put on and use scuba diving equipment and personally rescued three of them in the space of one hour, despite becoming extremely exhausted.

Certificates of Commendation

During the award ceremony, three certificates of commendation were also presented:

The Master and crew of the bitumen tanker Seapower, the Master and crew of the petroleum/chemical tanker MTM Tortola and the pilot and crew of the HMS Monmouth’s Wildcat helicopter Black Jack (815 Naval Air Squadron, UK Royal Navy), jointly nominated by Malta, Singapore and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for the exemplary international effort, courage and tenacity displayed in the coordinated operation to rescue 13 crew members of the sunken tanker MT RAMA 2, off Oman, in very adverse weather and sea conditions. Determined and tireless efforts by merchant vessels in the vicinity, coupled with the skills and persistence of a professional search and rescue winching team, enabled the successful rescue of the 13 crew members from rough seas and extreme peril.

The certificates were received during the Awards ceremony by Captain Levan Mamaladze (Georgia) of the Seapower; Captain Anubhav Srivastava (India) of MTM Tortola; and Lieutenant Commander Ash Morgan (United Kingdom), Flight Commander of the Black Jack helicopter.

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