Gallantry Awards to Navy 2017, Lt Cdr Neeraj Kumar: Lt Cdr Neeraj Kumar (06143-K) is the NBCD Officer onboard INS Trikand. At about 1820h on 08 June 2016, whilst transiting off Goa in heavy weather, INS Trikand was contacted on radio by Merchant Vessel MV Infinity One anchored off Grandi Island.
MV Infinity One reported crack in starboard ship’s side with ingress of water causing ten degrees list being aggravated by heavy weather and swell, and requested de-flooding assistance in emergency. Immediately, INS Trikand closed MV Infinity to render assistance. Weather was extremely unfavourable, with heavy rain, low visibility, winds gusting to 25-29 KN, pitch dark night conditions and sea state 3-4. Undeterred by the challenging weather conditions, Lt Cdr Neeraj Kumar sprang into action and quickly mustered a four man Damage Control (DC) team along with dewatering pumps and leak stopping gears.
During embarkation of the DC team and stores into the ship’s boat, the boat and ship were rolling excessively in the heavy seas and the scramble net swayed precariously throughout the descent into the boat. Keeping his cool and displaying unflinching courage, Lt Cdr Neeraj Kumar led from the front and ensured all men and stores were loaded into the boat in record time. Motivating his team all along the way and closely monitoring their movements, he led the team personally on an extremely demanding transit across the choppy seas to the marooned Merchant Vessel.
Upon embarkation onboard the Merchant Vessel at 2020h on 08 June 2016, the MV crew were assessed to be poorly trained and motivated, with many seemingly in shock. The forward hold of MV Infinity was half flooded and the ship was listed excessively to starboard with sea/ swell breaking over the weather deck. The only access to the forward hold was via a catwalk that was on the starboard edge of the weather deck, which was constantly awash with sea and spray. Catwalk and upper decks were caked with bitumen dust from the ship’s cargo, which along with the heel to starboard, aggravated by the pitch black night and falling rain created treacherous underfoot conditions.
The Forward Hold itself was in complete darkness and was accessible only via a narrow lobby above. All onboard pumps of the MV had burned out or suctions were choked by bitumen cargo in the hold.
Displaying tremendous professional poise and composure in such trying conditions, Lt Cdr Neeraj Kumar marshalled his team expertly and swiftly rigged up portable submersible pumps in the forward hold of the MV. When MV crew were unable to provide power supply for the pumps, Lt Cdr Neeraj Kumar and his team proactively took matters into their own hands, searched all nearby compartments, identified compatible supply breakers and rigged up direct electrical tapping from those points to energise the pumps. After two hours of sustained de-flooding of the forward hold using the pumps operationalised by Lt Cdr Neeraj and his crew, the list of the MV was observed to gradually reduce and by 0315h on 09 June 2016, the list had reduced to five degrees and the MV was declared out of the danger by the Master.
Military leadership, courage in adversity and ability to overcome all odds displayed by Lt Cdr Neeraj Kumar are in the best traditions of the naval service. Technical and seamanship skills as well as sheer guts displayed by the officer ensured successful rescue of a Merchant Vessel in distress at sea and saved the lives of all 14 MV seamen of Indian nationality. For his intrepid leadership and bravery, Lt Cdr Neeraj Kumar is awarded Nao Sena Medal (Gallantry).
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