Michael G McGee and Michael C Phillips

Two pilots who brought a burning ship to safety, averting a major maritime catastrophe, have been presented with the 2017 International Maritime Organization (IMO) Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea.

The pilots, Captain Michael G McGee and Captain Michael C Phillips, from Houston, Texas, US, were recognised for their role in averting a major tragedy in September, 2016.

The ship they were piloting, the 247m-long tanker Aframax River, broke down in the Houston Ship Channel in the middle of the night and burst into flames after colliding with mooring dolphins.

The IMO citation stated: “Capt McGee and Capt Phillips were surrounded by a towering wall of burning fuel as the raging fire quickly spread across the channel, threatening other tank ships and nearby waterfront facilities. Both pilots remained at their stations on the bridge of the ship during the fire.

“Capt McGee managed to manoeuvre the stricken and blazing vessel away from surrounding ships and facilities. Capt Phillips coordinated communications and firefighting efforts with the US Coast Guard and numerous local fireboats. Capt Phillips grabbed a fire extinguisher and put out a fire raging on the port bridge wing.”

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

The two captains were nominated by the International Maritime Pilots’ Association (IMPA).

More on this and other news in Sea Breezes Magazine - February 2018 Issue
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