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Australian pilot earns IMO commendation for exceptional bravery at sea

In December 2020, Australian Pilot Captain Ritesh Bhamaria was expertly piloting oil tanker MT Godam through the Torres Strait in adverse weather conditions when he and the vessel crew sighted a distant hand waving for help in the rough sea. That movement turned out to be an uncle and nephew—both local fishermen—who had been clinging to the floating debris for close to 17 hours following the sinking of their boat, with no access to an emergency beacon or other survival equipment. Captain Bhamaria recalled his surprise at seeing the two stranded men but wasted no time in taking action. They struggled to maintain sight of the people, losing sight of them three times. Finally, when they caught sight of them again, the crew realised the two men were being circled by hammerhead sharks. Rather than risking the ship’s crew, by launching a rescue boat in the prevailing weather conditions and potentially not getting to the stranded fishermen in time, the pilot made the tough decision to turn the 251-metre ship around in restricted waters. “Without hesitation, I turned the ship to the side where I had clearance,” Mr Bhamaria said. “The two biggest issues were maintaining sight of the two ...

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