Houston Pilots Receive IMO Bravery Award

Two Houston Ship Channel pilots received the 2017 International Maritime Organization (IMO) Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea. The award was presented during the 30th session of the IMO Assembly in November.

Capts. Michael G. McGee and Michael C. Phillips won the award for their actions during an incident in September 2016 when the ship they were piloting in the channel, the Aframax River, allided with mooring dolphins and burst into flames after the engines failed.

Despite being surrounded by a burning fuel whose flames reached up to 60 feet high, the two pilots “showed decisiveness, dedication and ship-handling expertise. As a result of their courageous actions, no lives were lost, serious damage to pier structures and petrochemical facilities was prevented and a major marine pollution incident was avoided,” according to the IMO.

Despite imminent danger, both pilots remained at their stations on the bridge of the ship during the fire. McGee maneuvered the stricken vessel away from surrounding ships and facilities. Phillips coordinated communications and firefighting efforts with the Coast Guard and numerous local fireboats. Phillips grabbed a fire extinguisher and put out a fire on the port bridge wing.

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The fire was extinguished after 90 minutes, leaving both pilots exhausted and suffering minor burns. McGee, using tugs, was then able to bring the damaged tanker safely to a mooring facility.

IMO established its annual award to provide international recognition for those who, at the risk of losing their own life, perform acts of exceptional bravery, displaying outstanding courage in attempting to save life at sea or in attempting to prevent or mitigate damage to the marine environment.

Nominations are scrutinized by an assessment panel made up of members of non-governmental organizations in consultative status with IMO, under the chairmanship of the secretary-general. A panel of judges made up of the chairs of several IMO bodies meets to consider the panel’s recommendations and to select the recipients.