Coast Guard hero gets IMO bravery award
Probationary ensign Ralph Barajan will receive the 2020 International Maritime Organization Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea for saving the lives of over 60 people on board the M/V Siargao Princess, which sank in waters off Cebu last year.

Coast Guard hero gets IMO bravery award

Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) - October 13, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines (Corrected 2:59 p.m.) — For saving 62 people on board a sinking passenger ship last November, an officer of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) will receive this year’s International Maritime Organization (IMO) Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea.

Probationary Ensign Ralph Barajan is among those who garnered the distinguished 2020 IMO Award for saving 62 lives, including his own, as the M/V Siargao Princess sank in Cebu waters, the PCG said.

The IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea is an annual international recognition for individuals who performed extraordinary acts of bravery – risking their own lives to ensure safety of life at sea or to prevent or mitigate marine environmental damage.

Upon comprehensive review of the nomination submitted by Philippine Ambassador to the United Kingdom Antonio Lagdameo, the IMO panel of judges chaired by secretary general Kitack Lim decided to bestow the award on Barajan.

But the IMO has yet to announce the exact date of awarding because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

PCG Commandant Admiral George Ursabia Jr. commended the selflessness of Barajan.

“P/Ens Barajan’s display of courage, determination and presence of mind which led to the successful rescue of 62 victims, including himself, is indeed worthy of emulation and respect for him, his family and for the PCG – a perfect demonstration of the Coast Guard service,” Ursabia said.

On Wednesday, he will join other Coast Guard personnel commended during the celebration of the maritime agency’s 119th founding anniversary.

The act of bravery took place at around 9:30 a.m. last Nov. 7 when the Siargao Princess departed Catagbacan Port in Loon, Bohol en route to Poblacion in Sibonga, Cebu with 55 passengers including Barajan and seven crewmembers on board.

On their way to Cebu, the ship encountered big waves approximately two meters high that flooded it.

Barajan was off duty at the time and at 11 a.m. was awakened by panicking passengers.

He immediately informed Coast Guard Sub-Station Bato and Coast Guard Station Southern Cebu regarding their situation and requested for assistance.

While waiting for the PCG rescue team, Barajan assisted passengers and distributed lifejackets and instructed them to stay calm and seated to maintain vessel stability. He also sought assistance of the crew for lifejackets for children on board.

He then looked for the captain and convinced him to declare abandon ship due to the dire situation. Once this was declared, the off-duty Coast Guard officer assisted the passengers to safely jump off the vessel one by one. He was the last to jump from the ill-fated ship, making sure no one was left behind.

MV Siargao Princess sank less than 10 minutes after abandon ship was declared. While floating on the water and waiting for rescue, Barajan tied the lifejackets of passengers and crewmembers in groups so that everyone would be secured.

This allowed the personnel of the PCG’s BRP Suluan to easily locate the victims, contributing to the swift rescue. All passengers and crew were declared safe aboard the Suluan.

(Editor's note: This article has been corrected by request of the Philippine Coast Guard. )

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