Despite the fact that medical staff at the Scottish coastguard over the radio had advised the crew on board the rescue vessel ‘Esvagt Cantana’ to stop first aid to the at the time only 19-year-old Asbjørn Morell, his colleagues continued tirelessly giving heart cardiac massage and artificial respiration for 104 minutes without any sign of heartbeat.
In the Mediterranean Sea, the captain and his crew on board the tanker ‘Maersk Etienne’ came to the rescue of 27 people including a pregnant woman when their boat sank in the Mediterranean Sea. As there was no possibility of disembarking the rescued people, the captain and his crew ended up taking care of the 27 people on board for 38 days.
These two exceptional incidents at sea in 2020 is the reason why the Danish Maritime Authority and International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) at the request of Danish Shipping have put forward the crews on board ‘Esvagt Cantana’ and ‘Maersk Etienne’ for the award ’THE 2021 IMO AWARD FOR EXCEPTIONAL BRAVERY AT SEA’.
“At ’Esvagt’ we are incredible proud of the crew on board ‘Esvagt Cantana’ who delivered a phenomenal effort that night when Asbjørn collapsed with a cardiac arrest. They showed in the most distinguished way what focus on safety, training and teamwork can accomplish and thereby saved the life of Asbjørn. Our congratulations and thanks therefore go entirely to” the crew who never gave up”, says ESVAGT’s DCEO Kristian Ole Jakobsen.
”We are proud and grateful that our captain and crew have been put forward for the UN award. Their resolute action saved the lives of 27 people. They displayed an exceptional courage and enormous strength and action during 38 days of extreme pressure where they helped the people in distress but also rescued three of them when they jumped overboard in desperation,” says Tommy Thomassen, chief technical officer at Maersk Tankers, and continues:
“Unfortunately, the problem in relation to helping people in distress in the Mediterranean Sea is far from being solved. Therefore, we continue to call for a political solution for what shipping companies should do next time they come to the rescue of people in distress. We will continue to do our share to reach a solution.”
Made a difference
When assistance finally arrived at ‘Esvagt Cantana’ which was 100 nautical miles west of Aberdeen in bad weather, it turned out that the crew’s persistent efforts had saved the life of Asbjørn. After 10 days in a coma at the hospital, he opened his eyes. He had survived his cardiac arrest and recovered completely after the incident.
Only after 38 days onboard ‘Maersk Etienne’, the 27 rescued people were transferred to the NGO vessel ‘Mare Jonio’ after which they disembarked in Italy. The transfer of the people in distress took place after the medical staff on board ’Mare Jonio’ assessed that their condition required immediate treatment. The incident at ’Maersk Etienne’ is considered the longest-running deadlock in maritime history.
At Danish Shipping the hope is that the recommendation to the award can be a reminder of what it takes to be working at sea.
”The tough crews on board ‘Esvagt Cantana” and ‘Maersk Etienne’ deserve credit for their heroic efforts. They acted where others would have hesitated. That is the essence of good seamanship and I hope that the recommendation to this award will be seen as a recognition as it is meant to be. No matter if they win the award or not, I am very proud of their effort,” says Anne H. Steffensen, CEO at Danish Shipping.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea is given to individuals who display exceptional bravery at sea by risking their own lives and safety in the attempt to rescue others or by preventing or mitigating damage to the marine environment. Such actions involve exceptional abilities under very difficult conditions and demonstrate a unique courage which deserves recognition.