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A disabled tug and barge

A disabled tug and barge are shown 30 miles offshore from Ocean City, Maryland, on Jan.15, 2023, after a tow line snapped and the Coast Guard hoisted the tug's seven crew members. The Legacy was towing a 290-foot barge from New Jersey, to Guyana, when their 1,000-foot towing line became entangled and fouled their propellers. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

US Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer to Receive IMO Bravery at Sea Award

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 5162
July 25, 2023

U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmer Caleb Halle has been chosen to receive the IMO 2023 Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea for his role in the rescue of seven crew members from a disabled tug off the coast of Maryland earlier this year .

The International Maritime Organization’s Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea is the highest honor for bravery at sea in the maritime industry.

The rescue operation took place on January 14, 2023, after crew members aboard the tug Legacy, while towing a 290-foot barge from New Jersey to Guyana, notified Coast Guard Sector Maryland-National Capital Region that their 1000-foot towing line had parted and the tug was disabled in severe weather approximately 35 nautical miles off Ocean City.

After several unsuccessful rescue attempts by a USCG cutter, a helicopter rescue team was dispatched. Aviation Survival Technician Second Class (AST2) Caleb Halle was the rescue swimmer leading operation.

Once on the scene, Halle was lowered to the tug and attempted a hoist operation from the stern of the Legacy, helping one survivor into the rescue basket before conditions dictated that it was unsafe to continue. Halle found a safer location on the main deck, where two additional survivors were hoisted to safety.

With the helicopter running low on fuel, Halle volunteered to remain with the tug and its four remaining crew members. When a second USCG helicopter crew arrived, Halle assisted the second rescue swimmer to reach the tug in difficult conditions and despite losing communication. Once on board, they managed to help hoist the four remaining crew members from the vessel. Halle conducted the final search inside the Legacy to ensure no one was left behind.

At one point, a large wave hit the tug, causing damage to the water-tight seal of Halle’s survival suit. As the two rescue swimmers were about to be hoisted off the tug, it suddenly pitched violently upwards, throwing them both into water close to the tug’s propellors. Once the helicopter regained its position, both rescue swimmers were plucked from water as Halle’s suit flooded.

The IMO said it received a total of 47 nominations for the 2023 award from 18 Member States, one Associate Member, and three non-governmental organizations in consultative status with IMO.

A Panel of Judges agreed that Halle demonstrated exceptional bravery and determination despite the extreme conditions, the complexities of a multi-unit rescue, and with communications failures, earning him the award.

Four individuals or sets of nominees will receive certificates of commendation for their acts of bravery. Another 13 will receive letters of commendation. The Panel of Judges also decided that 15 nominations of merchant vessels involved in the rescue operation of migrants will receive certificates, along with their crews. A full list is here.

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