(SEATTLE) — The captain and crew of Holland America Line's MS Veendam were honored by the Association for Rescue at Sea with a prestigious AFRAS AMVER Award for the 2015 rescue of a pilot who ditched his aircraft in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii. The Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System was implemented by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1958, and the AMVER Awards were created in 1971 to recognize vessels that participate in the program.
Holland America Line received the award at the annual Coast Guard award ceremony Sept. 21 at the United States Capitol in Washington. Veendam's Capt. Eric van der Wal accepted the honor on behalf of the cruise line.
"The pilot rescue in the Pacific Ocean is a proud moment in our company history, and we are honored to receive the AFRAS AMVER Award from the Association for Rescue at Sea," said Orlando Ashford, Holland America Line's president. "We are proud to support the AMVER motto, 'No call for help goes unanswered,' and on behalf of Veendam's captain and crew we thank you for the recognition."
The AMVER awards honor the heroism of those who take extraordinary measures to effect a successful rescue at sea. On Jan. 25, 2015, Veendam rescued a pilot 225 miles off the coast of Maui, Hawaii, who had to ditch his single-engine aircraft after a malfunction with the fuel system. The plane had a parachute system, and the pilot was able to safely escape into a life raft from which he was retrieved by Veendam.
The ceremony was hosted by California Rep. Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Marine Transportation, with additional members of Congress and Vice Commandant Adm. Charles D. Michel of the United States Coast Guard and his senior staff also in attendance.
The AFRAS AMVER Award was inaugurated in 1996 by the nonprofit, charitable-status Association for Rescue at Sea, which is devoted to supporting services concerned with saving lives at sea and promoting the importance of safety in concert with other maritime and aviation organizations. Selection criteria for the award include seamanship, ship handling, degree of effort involved in the rescue and the ship's initiative in responding.
The Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System, or AMVER, which is sponsored by the U.S. Coast Guard, is a computer-based voluntary global ship reporting system used worldwide by search and rescue authorities to arrange for assistance to persons in distress at sea.
This was the third rescue at sea by a Holland America Line ship in 2015. On Jan. 3, MS Zuiderdam rescued eight crewmembers from a sinking vessel in the Caribbean, and on Jan. 4 MS Zaandam came to the aid of seven stranded crewmembers at the Arctowski Polish research station at King George Island in Antarctica.