Men Who Risked Their Lives to Save Others: Vjesnik Blue Ribbon Award
Each year in December, the Seafarers’ Union of Croatia honours the bravest people who have undertaken rescue operations to save people and property or provide help at sea
The renowned Croatian award for the bravest rescue missions at sea is named the Blue Ribbon of Vjesnik, having been introduced in 1966 by the Vjesnik journal’s editor and novelist Ratko Zvrko. Even though the journal has since gone out of print, the torch was passed to the Seafarers’ Union that carried on paying tribute to the most selfless, courageous human beings who risked their lives to save others.
This year, a total of six rescue operations have been nominated for the award in the categories of individual undertakings and group rescue missions.
In the individual category, the award was granted to Luka Peroš from Zadar, a 29 year-old third officer at the ‘STI Berly’ tanker who saved four Indonesian fishermen from a sinking boat, 250 nautical miles off the coast of Singapore. In the night of December 2, 2016, Peroš boarded a life-boat which was then launched from a height of 21 metres into the rough sea. Due to the possibility of the boat tipping over, Peroš had to save two men at a time, and then cut the anchor rope of the sinking fishing boat.
The other two nominees also deserve a mention:
Nino Palmanj from Senj, the captain of the Dutch ship ‘EEMS Sky’, saved 52 migrants from a small boat adrift 40 miles off the coast of Gibraltar. On August 27, Palman conducted a rescue mission by making sure the dinghy carrying the refugees was firmly attached to the ship, then personally helping the panicking migrants to climb on board. The operation saw another participating Croat, first officer Slaven Tomić Ferić from Split.
Damir Rikanović from Kraljevica, the staff captain at the ‘Cristal Esprit’ cruise ship, rescued eight French yachtsmen from a catamaran stranded on a coral reef in the Seychelles. On February 17, Rikanović boarded a 5-metre dinghy and faced threatening swells in the dark to save five adults and three children in distress.
In the group category, the Blue Ribbon was awarded to the crew of the LNG tanker ‘Soyo’ headed by Andrej Vlašimski from Rijeka. On June 26, Vlašimski coordinated a complex rescue operation in the Gulf of Aden, aiming to save fourteen people from the sinking tanker ‘Rama2’. The mission was conducted during a thunderstorm that produced swells up to five metres in height.
Two more operations have been nominated for the award:
The crew of the ship ‘Pomer’ from Pula, led by Jasmin Ganibegović from Rab, rescued four Ecuadorian fishermen near the coast of Galapagos on April 2. The unfortunate men have previously spent ten days adrift in a small fishing boat with no working engine, finally getting spotted by the third officer Marko Haramija from Grobnik and being brought to safety soon thereafter.
Headed by Andrea Hubičko from Mošćenička Draga, the crew of the yacht ‘Follow me V’ stumbled upon a damaged sailboat Alexa in Italian waters, 32 miles off the coast of Novigrad in Istria. In the night of August 7, the crew rescued all eight people stranded on the sailboat.