Marine pilot Captain Ritesh Bhamaria, who rescued two local fishermen last December from Australian waters, has been selected for a global maritime award for his exceptional act of bravery at sea.
Cairns-based Captain Bhamaria will formally receive the prestigious Certificate of Commendation from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) at a virtual award ceremony on 6 December this year.
- Indian-Australian marine pilot Captain Ritesh Bhamaria selected for a global maritime award
- “It's the biggest feeling,” said Captain Bhamaria
- Captain Bhamaria rescued two fishermen from shark-infested waters at Torres Strait last December
The award is given annually to those people who, at the risk of losing their own life, perform exceptional bravery and display outstanding courage.
Captain Bhamaria has been recognised for leading a rescue mission in December 2020 when he was piloting the oil tanker MT Godam in Torres Strait and spotted two men stranded in treacherous sea conditions surrounded by sharks.
It was his quick action and marine expertise that helped the crew to turn the 251-meter ship around in restricted waters and save the men.
Feeling humbled on winning the award, Captain Bhamaria told SBS Hindi that it was like a dream come true for him.
"You dream of reaching this level where you get appreciated by IMO, so it’s the biggest feeling," he said while dedicating his award to the Australian piloting community.
A qualified mariner with an MBA degree, Captain Bhamaria was also conferred with the National Maritime Award for Gallantry by the Indian government earlier this year.
Explaining the rescue operation, Captain Bhamaria said it was he who decided every move of his crew and ship to approach the duo.
Speaking about the challenges faced by the crew at the time of the mission, he said their main focus was not to lose sight of the two men who were clinging to the floating debris for more than 15 hours.
“We couldn’t stop the ship near the survivors—the ship’s propeller would have posed too great a risk to the two men and the reef just behind them," he said, adding, “on the first turn, we dropped a smoke marker with a lifebuoy as close as 20 metres from the survivors."
“The fishermen were then able to cling to the buoy, while the smoke helped the approaching rescue craft home in on the location of the survivors. Meanwhile, the movement of the ship in the water deterred the sharks away from the men," he said.
The crew managed to get one person out of the water while a rescue helicopter arrived in time to save the second man.
Lauding Captain Bhamaria’s efforts, Australian Maritime Safety Authority CEO Mick Kinley said, “Captain Bhamaria and the ship’s crew displayed outstanding seamanship, coming together to the aid of others.”
"In this instance, Captain Bhamaria's knowledge of the surrounding area and quick thinking allowed him to make decisions that enabled the rescue of the two men," he added.
Captain Bhamaria is a permanent resident in Australia and currently lives in Cairns with his family.