Captain Radhika Menon, Master of the oil products tanker Sampurna Swarajya, is to receive the 2016 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea for her role in the dramatic rescue of seven fishermen from a sinking fishing boat in tumultuous seas.
The IMO Council, meeting for its 116th session in London, endorsed the decision of a Panel of Judges that Captain Menon displayed great determination and courage in leading the difficult rescue operation in the Bay of Bengal in June last year.
Captain Menon was nominated by the Government of India, for the rescue of all seven fishermen from the fishing boat Durgamma, which was adrift following engine failure and loss of anchor in severe weather. Food and water had been washed away and they were surviving on ice from the cold storage.
Through wave heights of more than 25 feet, winds of more than 60 knots and heavy rain, on 22 June, 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 arduous attempts in the lashing wind and rain and heavy swells before all seven weak and starving fishermen, aged from 15 to 50 years old, were brought to safety on board the ship. Their 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.
“I am humbled, honoured and grateful.” said Captain Menon “It is a master’s obligation to save souls in distress at sea and, as a seafarer in command of my ship, I just did my duty, ”
Captain Menon is the first female captain in the Indian Merchant Navy and will be the first female to receive the IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea.