Filipino coast guard Ralph Ofalla Barajan has just received the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea after saving Siargao Princess passengers in November 2019.
Petty Officer Second Class Barajan of the Philippine Coast Guard was awarded during the first-ever IMO Virtual Awards streamed live on the IMO Headquarters YouTube channel on April 7, 2021.
Barajan, who was still then a probationary ensign, was previously announced to be the recipient of the IMO Award in October 2020. The annual IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea recognizes those who, at the risk of losing their own life, display outstanding valor in attempting to save life at sea or attempting to prevent or mitigate damage to the marine environment.
Barajan was nominated by the Philippines “for the leadership and determination displayed, while off-duty, during the flooding and sinking of the M/V Siargao Princess, where he was a passenger along with 54 people.”
The 2020 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea citation describes the brave Filipino’s feat:
“On the morning of 7 November 2019, alerted by the battering of big waves and screams from other passengers, PO2 Barajan quickly assessed the situation and called the Coast Guard to request immediate assistance, as the cargo hold was quickly flooding, affecting the vesselʹs stability. He took charge of the situation and provided assistance and instructions to both passengers and crew members to grab life jackets, transfer to the other side of the ship and prepare for evacuation.
“After he calmly but firmly persuaded the Captain to declare abandon ship, he assisted all passengers to jump off the vessel, making sure that no one was left behind. The Siargao Princess sank in less than 10 minutes after abandoning the ship. While floating on the water, PO2 Barajan tied the life jackets of passengers and crew members in groups for their own safety and aiming to facilitate the search and rescue operation of the Coast Guard, which arrived more than an hour later.”
In his acceptance speech, Bajaran acknowledged that “the trainings of my career had helped me save 62 lives including my own.”
The IMO awardee dedicated the award to the unsung heroes of the Philippine Coast Guard, his fellow survivors, and his family.
After thanking God, his supporters, and various organizations, Ralph Bajaran proudly praised the Philippine Coast Guard team.
“It may take a lot of efforts to maintain safe and secure maritime environment. But with patriotic, compassionate, God-fearing coastguardians, which is the principle of genuine PCG, one thing is certain, we will never fall short of brave men and women of Philippine Coast Guard,” Bajaran said.
The other IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery At Sea was given to two Brazilian pilots for averting a major oil spill event. The virtual awards also recognized the awardee for the International Maritime Prize for 2019, 10 individuals/groups recipients of letters of commendation, and four recipients of certificates of commendation.
In 2015, Filipino able seaman Vicente Somera was cited by the International Maritime Organization with a Certificate of Commendation for risking his own life to rescue an Australian sailor amid treacherous sea conditions.
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