US Coast Guard Lifeguard Receives IMO Bravery at Sea Award Ship’s crew

U.S. Coast Guard lifeguard Caleb Halle was recognized with the IMO 2023 Award for Exceptional Valor at Sea earlier this year for his role in rescuing seven crew members from a disabled tugboat off the coast of Maryland.

The International Maritime Organization Award for Exceptional Valor at Sea is the highest award for bravery at sea in the maritime industry.

The rescue operation took place on January 14, 2023 after crew members were on board the tugboat Legacy, While towing a 290-foot barge from New Jersey to Guyana, he told the Maryland-National Capital Region Coast Guard Sector that his 1,000-foot tow line had snapped and the tug was disabled during severe weather about 35 nautical miles from Ocean City.

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

When Halle was on site, she was lowered onto the tugboat and tried to lift from the stern legacyWe helped one survivor get into the rescue cage before circumstances made it unsafe to continue. Halle found a safer spot on the main deck, where two other survivors were taken to safety.

As the helicopter was running low on fuel, Halle volunteered to stay with the tugboat and its four remaining crew members. When a second USCG helicopter crew arrived, Halle helped the second lifeguard reach the tug in difficult conditions and despite loss of communications. On board, they managed to lift the four remaining crew members out of the ship. Halle conducted the final search inside legacy to make sure no one is left behind.

At one point, a large wave hit the tugboat, causing damage to the watertight seal of Halle’s survival suit. As the two lifeguards were about to be hoisted off the tug, the tug suddenly swayed violently and threw them both into the water near the tug’s propellers. As the helicopter regained position, both lifeguards were pulled out of the water when Halle’s suit flooded.

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

A panel of judges agreed that despite the extreme conditions, complexity of a multi-unit rescue and communications failures, Halle demonstrated exceptional courage and determination, earning him the award.

Four individuals or groups of nominees will receive certificates of appreciation for their brave actions. Another 13 received letters of recommendation. The jury also ruled that 15 nominated merchant ships involved in the migrant rescue operation will receive certificates along with their crews. A complete list can be found here.

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