The Chilean Navy was presented with the International Maritime Organization, IMO, Bravery at Sea award for the prompt and effective rescue operation displayed during the emergency involving cruise vessel Explorer, which sank in Antarctica on November 22nd of 2007.
The honours ceremony took place during the IMO 85th Security Conference meeting held in London last December. The Chilean navy was represented by Rear Admiral Juan Pablo Heusser Risopatrón, head of the Safety and Maritime Operations. "Bravery at sea" recognizes those who at risk of their own lives, perform acts of extreme courage in order to rescue people in danger or to prevent environmental catastrophes at sea. Although there were other vessels from other countries involved, the search and rescue operation of the "Explorer" was coordinated and mostly executed by the Chilean Navy. The operation managed to successfully save all 154 passengers while also preventing any contamination that may have been caused by the vessel's collision with an iceberg, which eventually caused the ship to go down. On November 22nd, 2007 the Chilean Navy received distress messages from the Liberian flagged "Explorer" and chartered by a Canadian cruise company. The vessel to the east of Fides Bay had collided with a huge chunk of floating ice and was rapidly listing through a gash that had pierced the hull. Explorer was carrying 100 passengers and 54 crewmembers. The Chilean Navy Search and Rescue department and the Chilean Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre rapidly organized the rescue operation. They immediately contacted another cruise vessel in the area, "Nordnorge" which sailed to Explorer's position and the Chilean icebreaker "Almirante Viel" was also rerouted in support. All passengers and crewmembers were safely rescued and transported to the Chilean base "Presidente Frei" and Uruguay's base "Jose Artigas", where they spent the night before been flown by the Chilean Air Force to Punta Arenas, in the extreme south of Chile.