Meet Captain Menon, World’s First Woman To Be Awarded For Maritime Bravery

Published on 11 Jul 2016 . 3 min read

This is not the first time that Captain Radhika Menon, master of the oil tanker Sampurna Swarajya of the Shipping Corporation of India, is making headlines. Four years ago, she was in the headlines when she became the first woman to become a captain in the Indian Merchant Navy. Captain Menon, who belongs to Kodungallur in Kerala, joined the Shipping Corporation as a trainee radio officer soon after her Class XII. She was the first woman to do so. Besides managing the communication on the ship, she was also in charge of the food and the provisions.

Gradually, she cleared all the exams for the post of the second mate and the chief mate, and also had the required sea time. By 2010, she finally cleared the master’s certificate, and took charge of MT Suvarna Swarajya in 2012, making her presence in the headlines for the first time.

This time around, Captain Menon is going to receive the 2016 IMO (International Maritime Organisation) Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea, thereby creating history by being the first female captain to receive this award. She showed extreme guts in the dramatic rescue of seven fishermen from a sinking boat in the clamorous sea.

Captain Menon has been nominated by the Indian government for the rescue of the fishermen from boat “Durgamma”. The boat had drifted deep into the sea due to engine failure and loss of anchor in bad weather. The fishermen were of all ages--ranging from seven to 50 years old. All of them were in a bad shape and state of mind, besides being weak, frightened and hungry. They were starving as all the food and water they were carrying had been washed away, and they were literally surviving on ice from cold storage.

On June 22nd, the height of the waves was more than 25 feet and winds more than 60 knots. These were teamed with heavy rain. Despite the conditions, the second officer of Sampurna Swarajya spotted the boat almost 2.5 kilometres away, drifting from the coast of Gopalpur, Orissa.

When Captain Menon was notified, she ordered a rescue mission, with the pilot ladder, the life jackets and buoys on standby. This task was not easy as it took three strenuous attempts in the heavy rain and gushing wind and swells before all the seven fishermen made it safely to the ship.

The families of these fishermen thought that they were already dead but, courtesy Captain Menon, they were reunited.

When Captain Menon was asked about the IMO award, she stated, “I am humbled, honoured and grateful. It is a maritime obligation to save souls in distress at sea and, as a seafarer and master in command of my ship, I just did my duty."

A big salute to Captain Menon for being the first female captain of the Indian Merchant Navy, and also, for being the first woman in the world to receive an award for bravery at sea.

image source

Shubhra Rastogi
Doctor by education, a healthcare analyst and a medical writer by profession and a writer by chance. I ventured into the world of writing with my blog "Natkhatz" which is about my experiences with my 4 year old.

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