Two Indian seafarers were last week awarded the Operational Medal of the Norwegian Armed Forces by Consul General Torbjørn Holthe in Mumbai.
They had been members of the crew on board M/V "Taiko", which ensured that 1300 tons of chemical weapons were transported from Syria and safely destroyed in 2014.
In 2013, the UN requested assistance from the international community for the removal and transportation of chemical weapons from Syria. The Norwegian Government, in close cooperation with the shipping company Wilhelmsen, provided the civilian cargo ship M/V "Taiko" and two escort vessels from the Norwegian Navy. The cargo ship had an international crew, among them the Indian seafarers.
Consul General Torbjørn Holthe had invited the two Indian seafarers, Mr. Nitin Wadia, radio officer, and Mr. Aju Chacko, third engineer, to his residence in Mumbai to award them the operational medal of the Norwegian Armed Forces. Defence Attache at the Norwegian Embassy in New Delhi, Commander Mr. Hogne Rykkje, presented the award on behalf of the Armed Forces.
Present at the ceremony were the seafarers families, Mr. Deepak Shetty, Director General from the Ministry of Shipping, and Mr. Sumit Mullick from the Government of Maharashtra. In attendance were also representatives from the Western Naval Command, as well as several seafarers organisations and shipping companies. "Indian maritime authorities and industry are very proud that two of our own have recived the medal of the Norwegian Armed Forces", said Mr Deepak Shetty and emphasized that the maritime links between India and Norway remain strong.
The awarding of a military medal to a civilian is a rare historic event. This is the first time since World War II that civilians are awarded a medal from the Norwegian Armed Forces. Moreover, it is the first time non-Norwegian civilians are awarded the medal. The mission in question is one of Norway's most important contributions to international peace and security in recent years. Mr. Wadia and Mr. Chako received the award for their personal contribution to the success of the mission.