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Three Americans receive awards at the International Maritime Organization’s award ceremony

The Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization, Mr. Kitack Lim from the Republic of Korea, hosted an award ceremony November 25 where two major awards were presented to Americans: the International Maritime Prize and Extraordinary Bravery at Sea.  In addition, certificates of commendation were presented to other outstanding rescuers and one such certificate was awarded to a U.S. mariner.

Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Karl L. Schultz and Head of Delegation to the IMO’s Assembly meeting was also present to celebrate the accomplishments of the three recipients.  The IMO is the United Nations’ specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.

The prestigious International Maritime Prize for 2018 was presented to Mr. Joseph J. Angelo, a former U.S. Coast Guard civilian employee and current International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO) senior executive who participated in IMO meetings for many years, providing leadership on a number of key regulatory developments.

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim presented the prize on Monday at the annual IMO Awards ceremony. Lim outlined Angelo’s long commitment to IMO and his reputation as a technical expert, diplomat and problem solver who earned the nickname “IMO Joe.”  

The IMO Council decided in July to award the prize to Angelo in recognition of his invaluable contribution to the work and objectives of IMO and to the international maritime community as a whole.

Upon accepting the prize, Angelo thanked the United States and INTERTANKO for nominating him, and the IMO Council for selecting him for the “tremendous honor.”

“It has been my distinct privilege to work side-by-side with many exceptional delegates from around the world over the past 39 years, all coming together to create solutions which have resulted in crucial improvements to maritime safety, security and protection of the marine environment. I am proud to have been a part of the progress we made together,” he said. 

Angelo was nominated by the U.S. government and INTERTANKO. In their nominations, they highlighted their constructive and collaborative work with all stakeholders to achieve outcomes. Angelo was active in a number of IMO bodies, most notably the Maritime Safety Committee and the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC). He first attended the MEPC’s 13th session in 1980 and has attended every session since, including MEPC 73 in 2018.

The U.S. government said Angelo was known as “IMO Joe” in recognition of the respect held by all for the knowledge, skill and cooperation he freely offered. He respected the IMO and believed in its enduring mission, recognizing that the success of the organization rested not on the accomplishments of a few, but on the accomplishments of everyone.

Aviation Survival Technician Second Class Michael Kelly, a rescue swimmer with the U.S. Coast Guard, received the 2019 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea.

Kelly was recognized for his courage, perseverance and skill in rescuing four survivors from a life raft from a sinking fishing vessel in extremely high winds. He battled huge waves to swim to rescue each survivor and get them winched to safety. Kelly, who is stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, was nominated by the United States government for his part in the rescue operation in November 2018.

 Accepting the award, Kelly said it was an immeasurable honor and truly humbling to be recognized by the IMO. He acknowledged the teamwork involved in the rescue.

 “I would not be here if it was not for the amazing skills of my crew. Their precision and focus allowed me to act as a tiny cog in the large process of search and rescue, that we are all so passionate about and train for daily,” Kelly said. “There is nothing more precious than human life and we all strive to go home to the ones we love.”

On November 14, 2018, during heavy storms, the crew of the rescue helicopter CG-6032 was directed to provide assistance to the sinking fishing vessel Aaron and Melissa II. The vessel’s four crew members were abandoning ship in very severe weather conditions, 70 miles off the coast of Maine.

After taking off, the helicopter crew immediately encountered very strong turbulence and gusts up to 60 knots. The aircrew located a life raft battered by raging seas and Kelly was immediately deployed into the cold water. Battling 20-foot waves and 50-knot winds, he finally managed to reach the anchor line and pull himself to the life raft.

It was a critical situation, with all four survivors suffering from hypothermia. Two were unable to swim, while the flooded raft was in danger of capsizing. With great strength and stamina, Kelly pulled each survivor from the raft, one by one, swimming strongly through the storm to keep them afloat. Each was lifted into the swaying rescue basket and hoisted to safety.

After each rescue, Kelly was forced to regain lost ground, as the heavy winds continued to push the life raft further away. He fought through extreme weather conditions, as well as physical and mental exhaustion, to save the lives of four seafarers in distress.

Also receiving an award that evening was Capt. William Boyce and crew of the car carrier Green Lake, who were awarded a Certificate of Commendation for the exceptional seamanship, tenacity and leadership demonstrated in rescuing seafarers from the car carrier Sincerity Ace, which had been forced to abandon ship due to a fire on board that had quickly got out of control. Boyce skillfully maneuvered his 633-foot-long vessel safely alongside survivors in the water, in extreme weather conditions of 30-knot winds and 25-foot waves. Over 18 hours, seven crew members were rescued. At the same time, Boyce coordinated rescue efforts conducted by three other vessels assisting in the operation, saving the lives of the other survivors.

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.

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