Captain Radhika Menon, First Woman to win IMO Award

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Women are not seen usually taking up tough jobs. In India at least since last few decades the situation is changing and women are taking up jobs that were once only considered suitable for men.

We see women take up jobs in navy too and it may come as a surprise that Indian merchant navy has more than fifty women. The women do their jobs really well and win awards too.

captain radhika menon

One such success story is of Captain Radhika Menon who in November this year will receive an award for exceptional bravery at sea.

First woman to receive the award:

Captain Menon is the first woman captain in the Indian Merchant Navy and will be the first woman to receive the IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea. The Awards ceremony is expected to take place at IMO Headquarters, on 21 November, at the end of the first day of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC).

Reasons why not many succeed:

It is very difficult to find successful women in merchant navy as despite being good in their jobs women usually have to quit their jobs as they need to take of their families.

Also women during time when they are expecting a child are not able to continue their jobs as they need rest and care.

Also being in navy means women will have to be away from family for months together and so women find it really difficult to continue the jobs for long.

Why Radhika Menon is an exception:

Radhika Menon who is in her mid 40s is an exception to this as she has proved that she is capable for the job as a captain. She is the first Indian women captain of a merchant navy ship.

From her school days she was determined that she will not live ordinary life and do a 9 to 5 job. She joined Indian navy after clearing her class 12 exam in the year 1991. Her first job in navy was to look after the communication system of the ship. She was the first woman radio officer of India.

She continued appearing for exams and kept excelling in her career. She cleared her master's certificate exam in 2010 and sailed in MT Suvarna Swarajya twice before she took charge of the ship as captain.

As per Captain Radhika balancing both the worlds is the key to success. She is married and a mother of seventeen-year-old son. The fact that her husband was a radio offider must would have helped her as he would know the pressure of the job.

Lucky Captain Radhika has her husband and son join her sometimes when she is sailing. Staying away from the family for six months when she is at sea is difficult but the Captain says she spends quality time and makes up for the lost time when she is home for six months.

Captain Radhika prefers to sail along the Indian coast so that she can spend more time with her family. As per her once the crew members realised that she was good at her job the task of managing a ship became easy. Just that she has to do her job better than male captains do.

The award she won:

Captain Radhika will be awarded the 2016 International Maritime Organisation Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea for her role in the dramatic rescue of seven fishermen from a sinking fishing boat in tumultuous seas in the Bay of Bengal in June last year will be given to Captain Radhika Menon who is the Master of the oil products tanker Sampurna Swarajya.

The International Maritime Organisation - is the United Nations specialised agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.

Nomination and selection for the award:

Captain Menon was nominated by the Government of India, for the rescue of all seven fishermen from the fishing boat Durgamma, which was adrift following engine failure and loss of anchor in severe weather. Food and water had been washed away and they were surviving on ice from the cold storage.

The IMO Council, meeting for its 116th session in London, endorsed the decision of a Panel of Judges that Captain Menon displayed great determination and courage in leading the difficult rescue operation in the Bay of Bengal in June last year.

Rescue operation undertaken by Captain Menon:

Through wave heights of more than 25 feet, winds of more than 60 knots and heavy rain, on 22 June, the second officer on the Sampurna Swarajya spotted the boat 2.5 kilometres away, off the coast of Gopalpur, Orissa.

Captain Menon immediately ordered a rescue operation, utilising the pilot ladder and with life jackets and buoys on standby. It took three arduous attempts in the lashing wind and rain and heavy swells before all seven weak and starving fishermen, aged from 15 to 50 years old, were brought to safety on board the ship. Their families had already considered them to be lost at sea, but thanks to the rescue, led by Captain Menon, they were reunited with their loved ones a few days later.

About the award:

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.

Nominations are scrutinised by an Assessment Panel made up of members of non-governmental organisations in consultative status with IMO, under the chairmanship of the Secretary-General.

Subsequently, a Panel of Judges meets (under the chairmanship of the Chairman of the Council, with the participation of the Chairmen of the Maritime Safety Committee, the Marine Environment Protection Committee, the Legal Committee, the Technical Cooperation Committee and the Facilitation Committee) to consider the recommendations of the Assessment Panel and to select the recipient of the Award.

The recipient of the Award is invited to a special ceremony at IMO to receive a medal and a certificate citing the act of exceptional bravery performed.

There are three categories of honour: first, the Award itself, for the nominee judged to have performed the most outstanding act of bravery from among those described. Secondly, Certificates of Commendation are awarded to nominees who have committed acts of extraordinary bravery. And, thirdly, Letters of Commendation are sent to those nominees who are judged to deserve some special recognition for meritorious actions.

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