The Association for Rescue at Sea, Inc. (AFRAS) will hold its annual awards ceremony and reception on 16 October 2013. The event will take place on Capitol Hill in Washington, D. C. and will be co-hosted by the Honorable Howard Coble, co-Chairman, U.S. Congressional Coast Guard Caucus. AFRAS will award the Gold Medal and the Amver (Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System) plaque for outstanding rescues made in 2012. The Gold Medal and a cash prize will be presented to Robert D. Emley, Aviation Survival Technician Second Class, U.S. Coast Guard and the Amver plaque will go to the Captain and crew of M/V Horizon Reliance.

The AFRAS AMVER Award, recognizing an extraordinary contribution of seamen in ships at sea to the safety of their fellow mariners, will be presented to the captain and crew of M/V Horizon Reliance, a United States flagged container ship managed by Horizon Lines LLC, for taking part in two rescues in 2012 which resulted in saving 3 Canadians and an 81-year old American sailor.

On 8 February 2012, the crew of the 38-foot sailboat Liahona contacted the Coast Guard Cutter Kiska when their sailboat became disabled. The crew reported damage to their top forestay and engine, eventually losing their mast in the 40 knot winds and 20-foot seas. Coast Guard Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu, using an Amver surface picture, contacted the 893-foot Horizon Reliance, and asked the captain to divert to assist the crew of Liahona. At that time, the container ship was 149 miles away from the sailboat’s location.

At approximately 2:00 a.m., Captain James Kelleher and the crew of the container ship reached the vessel. As they approached, a swell caused the sailboat to capsize and sink, throwing all three passengers in the sea. The crew of Horizon Reliance lowered a ladder, rescuing the first Canadian sailor, but the others, a 32 year old man and a 9 year old boy, drifted away. Because they were wearing lifejackets with strobe lights attached, the rescuers were able to keep them in sight and eventually bring them aboard safely.

On 12 June 2012, the crew of Horizon Reliance received word of a possible medical evacuation from a sailboat 1,100 miles east north east of Oahu. The container ship was again identified by the Coast Guard as being closest, using an Amver Surface Picture. Captain Barry Costanzi, Master of the Horizon Reliance diverted and with the help of his crew, brought an 81 year old sailor aboard by deploying the gangway in the 8-10 foot seas. The sailor had suffered a stroke on 10 June and was partially paralyzed and unable to speak.The crew of Horizon Reliance provided medical treatment and kept him comfortable until returning to Honolulu the following day.

The Amver System, sponsored by the United States Coast Guard, is a unique, computer-based, and voluntary global ship reporting system used worldwide by search and rescue authorities to arrange for assistance to persons in distress at sea. AFRAS commends the expert actions of both Captains and the crew of Horizon Reliance for their role in these dramatic rescues.

In addition to presentation of the AFRAS AMVER Award, The AFRAS Vice Admiral Thomas R. Sargent Gold Medal, will be presented to Robert D. Emley for his heroic life-saving actions on 25 May 2012 while serving as rescue swimmer aboard Coast Guard Helicopter CG6044. This medal is presented annually to an enlisted member of the United States Coast Guard for an act of extraordinary bravery during a rescue at sea.

The Association for Rescue at Sea (AFRAS) is a non-profit foundation, which supports services concerned with saving lives at sea.