NSRI’s Craig Lambinon first South African to receive Order of Maritime Merit

The NSRI says the award lauds the role Lambinon has played in the welfare of many French citizens who have been rescued and assisted while visiting South Africa and his commitment towards water safety.

The National Sea Rescue Institute's (NSRI) Craig Lambinon smiles after receiving the Knight in the Order of the Maritime Merit. Picture: nsri.org.za

CAPE TOWN - The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI)'s Craig Lambinon says he's elated after being honoured by the French Embassy for his dedication to the maritime industry.

Lambinon, who has been working at the institute since 1993, has been named as the Knight in the Order of the Maritime Merit (Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite Maritime).

He received the award at the Cape Town Harbour on Tuesday night during a ceremony on a French surveillance ship.

The NSRI says the award particularly lauds the active role Lambinon has played in the welfare of many French citizens who have been rescued and assisted while visiting South Africa, as well as his commitment towards water safety and the prevention of accidents at sea.

Lambinon says it's believed he is the first South African to receive this award.

“I am honoured to have received this from the French government. It was a very special event. From the NSRI’s perspective, we are really proud of ourselves to have been recognised for the service we provide for French citizens on South African waters.”

Lambinon has served the NSRI at station eight Hout Bay and at station two Bakoven as a volunteer crewman since 1993, as well as the station 29 air-sea rescue unit as a volunteer rescue swimmer. He was awarded the NSRI Directors Letter of Thanks for his role in the rescue of a Japanese solo sailor in 2001 after his yacht was swept ashore at Olifantsbosspunt, Cape Point.

The CHC Sikorski 61 rescue helicopter was dispatched while NSRI Hout Bay launched sea rescue craft. Lambinon was deployed into the surf from the helicopter. He boarded the yacht and was able to cast the anchor away. Assisted by the yachtsman, a tow-line was rigged from the NSRI Hout Bay sea rescue craft only minutes before waves would have swept the yacht onto rocks. The yacht was towed to Hout Bay.

In 2012 Craig was appointed as NSRI national spokesman. In addition to keeping the media updated during search and rescue operations, he provides support to rescue crew and the distraught families awaiting news.

He spends hours on the phone providing a comforting voice as the events unfold. This communication often continues for weeks and months after the event, as families come to terms with tragedy. Where casualties are visitors to South Africa, he is the primary liaison with the foreign consulates.

“Craig is a unique individual who manages to balance his technical knowledge and efficiency with sincere compassion. He frequently works on multiple rescues at any one time and he never seems to sleep. Craig is a deserving recipient of this honour,” said NSRI acting CEO, Mark Hughes.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)