THE INTERNATIONAL Maritime Organization has awarded a Certificate of Commendation for Exceptional Bravery at Sea to the three crewmembers of the SL Diamantina for saving 21 lives and averting an environmental disaster in July last year in the Portland Bay incident.

The vessel lost propulsion in heavy weather and drifted rapidly towards the coast in gale-force winds and high seas. The crew of the towage tug SL Diamantina braved the harsh weather conditions to keep the 169-metre bulk carrier from running aground.

The tug arrived as Portland Bay came dangerously close to the coast and managed to secure a tow line to the vessel in 10-metre seas.

Portland Bay from SL Diamantina in July 2022. Image: AMSA

The tow line parted three times over the course of the next two hours, but the crew was able to keep the bulk carrier from running aground until emergency tugs could arrive and tow the ship to Port Botany.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority nominated Brad Lucas (Master), Alex Alsop (Deckhand), and Marius Fenger (Engineer), for their extraordinary efforts in saving the lives of the crew on board the Portland Bay and preventing an environmental disaster on the shores of the world’s second-oldest national park, the Royal National Park, south of Sydney.

AMSA CEO Mick Kinley extended a heartfelt congratulations to the crew during his meeting with them in London.

“Thanks to the remarkable bravery, stamina and resourcefulness of Master Brad Lucas, Engineer Marius Fenger and Deckhand Alex Alsop, 21 people are safe today,” he said.

“And if that weren’t enough, their actions averted an environmental disaster that would have had long lasting ramifications had they not succeeded.”

The award was presented to recipients at an IMO ceremony last night in London, with Mr Lucas, Mr Fenger and Mr Alsop in attendance.

Mr Lucas praised his crewmates for their outstanding support during the incident.

“I was so grateful to have someone like Alex and Marius with me,” he said.

“This award means a lot to me because I want to stand next to my engineer Marius and my deckhand Alex and remember the day, remember what we did that day.”

Others recognised with IMO awards and commendations

The IMO 2023 Award for Exceptional Bravery at sea was awarded to Caleb Halle, an aviation survival technician second class with the United States Coast Guard. Nominated by the US, he was awarded for courage, endurance and determination shown during the rescue of the seven-person crew of the tugboat Legacy in January this year.

In addition to the SL Diamantina crew, the IMO issued three other Certificates of Commendation for Exceptional Bravery at Sea. Recipients include:

  • José Cardoso Lemos, subsistence fisher, nominated by Brazil, for his bravery, selfless actions and determination in singlehandedly pulling 25 survivors off the sunken passenger vessel Dona Lourdes II to safety on his fishing boat, before assisting with the recovery of the bodies of others who had drowned.
  • The crew of the fishing vessel Zhe Long Gang Yu 05668, nominated by China, for their outstanding courage and tireless efforts during the rescue of another fishing vessel, the Zhe Ling Yu Yun 30058, which had caught fire, with flames quickly spreading due to strong winds. Twelve survived; one fisher lost his life.
  • Aviation Survival Technician Third Class John Walton, rescue swimmer on board helicopter CG-6009, Aviation Training Centre Mobile, Sector North Bend, United States Coast Guard, nominated by the United States. AST3 Walton played a vital role in saving the life of a person thrown overboard from the motor yacht Sandpiper when it capsized.

A panel of judges selected the recipients of the awards. In July, the IMO Council endorsed the selections.