LONDON, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- The International Maritime Organization (IMO) on Thursday night awarded the 2018 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery At Sea to Chinese diver Zhong Haifeng.
Zhong is a rescue diver from Guangzhou Salvage Bureau of Chinese Ministry of Transport. He made a series of underwater dives to rescue three people, when a cargo ship sank after colliding with another in China's Guangzhou Port in last November.
The judges decided that the rescue merited the highest award, after China nominated Zhong. The decision was endorsed by the IMO Council at its 120th session in London in July.
A Panel of Judges agreed that Zhong demonstrated "truly exceptional bravery and human spirit" during the rescue "by personally exerting tireless efforts under highly dangerous circumstances".
Zhong said in his award speech that this award is "a recognition of the work done by China's salvage industry and also a great encouragement for my team and myself."
He recalled that the rescue when the bulk carrier MV Jin Ze Lun collided with another ship in the early morning of Nov. 27, 2017, causing the bulk carrier to sink in the main channel to the Guangzhou port. Of the 14 crew on board, two were immediately rescued but 12 remained missing.
Zhong, senior diver and deputy of the Engineering Team of Guangzhou Salvage, was put in charge of the search for survivors. After 36 hours of dives, six survivors were found trapped in the cargo hold. Zhong instructed his team to replace oxygen to the cabin and talk to the trapped survivors to calm them.
Zhong then dived down to the cargo hold with a teammate, bringing scuba diving equipment for those trapped. In the afternoon of Nov. 28, he dived down six times, teaching survivors how to put on and use scuba diving equipment and rescued three of them in the space of one hour.
"I cherish this great honour and will make persistent efforts in bringing more excellence into our diving skills and salvage technique in our future work," Zhong said.
He told Xinhua he was honored to receive this reward but he would prefer to carry out less rescue missions if the accident could be avoided in advance.
"It is not true to say that I am not afraid of danger. But whenever I see the desire of the distressed survivors and the joy in their eyes when they get rescued, I feel that I should seize every minute and second to give the hope for life to the survivors and leave the danger of death to myself," he said.
This annual award was established by IMO 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.
Of a total of 22 qualifying nominations received from 15 member states and two non-governmental organizations, a further three received Certificates of Commendation and eight received Letters of Commendation.