UK: HMS Belfast Hosts Award Reception Ceremony

HMS Belfast Hosts Award Reception Ceremony

On the evening of 14th June the winners of the annual Safety at Sea Awards for 2012 presented by Safety at Sea magazine were announced, and awards presented, at a reception held onboard the WW2 cruiser HMS Belfast in London.

There were seven awards given in total covering areas such as equipment, training, engineering excellence to companies from around the world and one of the winners was Bermuda Container Line and the Oleander. The awards were presented by Capt. Ian McNaught, Deputy Master and Executive Chairman of Trinity House (the organization which maintains safety in British waters) and a former captain of the QE2.

Below are the comments made by Paul Gunton, Executive Editor of Safety At Sea magazine when making the
presentation for the AMVER award.

“I am sure most of you are familiar with the Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue System, AMVER, which is operated by the USCG to coordinate rescues worldwide. It makes a number of awards and, for some years now, Safety at Sea has supported an award to recognise an AMVER rescue that has involved a high degree of seamanship.

For this, AMVER provided details of a number of rescues from which the staff of Safety at Sea selected a winner. All the rescues demonstrated outstanding seamanship, but we felt that one stood out as exceptionally demonstrating the qualities the award is intended to honour.

I would like to invite Lieutenant Sean Jehu of the US Coast Guard to step forward to join Capt McNaught at the front. Lieutenant Jehu is currently the USCG’s exchange officer with the Royal Navy. He will present a Green AMVER pennant, which you can see here and is unique to the Safety at Sea award, and Capt McNaught will present a Safety at Sea trophy on behalf of the publication. But first I will tell about the winning rescue.

The award goes to the crew of the 6,500 dwt container/ro-ro ship Oleander, whose crew rescued four people from a yacht 160 miles from Bermuda last November. Winds greater than 40 knots had raised seas estimated at 9m when a 14m yacht lost its steering. Rescue authorities in Bermuda received the initial distress call and the USCG launched a Coast Guard rescue aircraft and diverted Oleander. The ship was on a voyage to Bermuda and was close to the incident and its master, Captain Jurszo agreed to divert and assist the yacht. One of the yacht’s crew, Brian Finn, wrote later that the Elle had lost its steering “and we were helplessly adrift in the gale.” He described how Captain Jurszo “expertly manoeuvred Oleander next to Elle gently touching her side.” One  complication was that the yacht’s mast was swinging wildly near the outside steering station, almost hitting Captain Jurszo in the head.

In an email to the ship’s operator, Bermuda Container Line, Brian said that “things got even more challenging when I plunged into the ocean. The crew reacted perfectly. They threw me a line that I tied onto my safety harness and they hauled me over the side. They successfully got us all on board.”

In another email, Elle Ashton, the daughter of the yacht’s owner and after whom it was named wrote: “Thank you for recuing my dad. He is the only Dad I have and I don’t know what I would do without him. I want to acknowledge the compassion, generosity and genuine kindness shown by the Captain and crew of the Oleander.”

In fact, Oleander is a regular name in AMVER reports. It was enrolled in the scheme in 1990 and has so far earned 12 awards. And now it has a 13th. The ship is operated by Bermuda Container Line and its managers have conveyed our admiration to Capt Jurszo, who is on holiday at the moment and not able to be here. So to receive the AMVER pennant and trophy tonight is Capt Joop Vrolyk, who assisted in the original design and build of Oleander and served as its Master for its first 15 years or so. He has been involved  in numerous search and rescue operations during his time with BCL and, though retired, remains involved with the Oleander as a consultant during dry-dockings, etc since stepping ashore.”

Naval Today Staff , June 21, 2012; Image: Maritime