France honours NSRI stalwart aboard visiting frigate


At a function hosted by the French Consulate aboard the French Surveillance Frigate Floreal, Ambassador of France to South Africa, Christophe Farnaud bestowed the insignia of Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite maritime on Craig Lambinon for his 25 years involvement as a volunteer for the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI).

The insignia celebrates the accomplishments of distinguished individuals in the maritime environment.

Speaking at the award ceremony in Table Bay on 19 November, Farnaud noted that France and South Africa are partners in many fields, including politics and economics, saying that “this partnership is also a defence partnership which is sometimes overlooked by people.”
“I’m happy to say that we do more with South Africa than we do with many other partners for one simple reason. We are neighbours in the Indian Ocean…we share interests…in fighting all kinds of traffic and illegal activities at sea. It’s good to have both the French and the South African Navy able to work together at times.”

Another special field of cooperation is that of sea rescue, with Farnaud saying that it is not just about the military, but also civilian activities that demonstrates the best in cooperative readiness on both sides, to be able to go out and help in difficult circumstances.

The National Sea Rescue Institute is a non-governmental organization that has been providing sea rescue and water safety campaigns since 1967. For rescues requiring significant resources, the NSRI regularly calls on the South African Navy and works in coordination with the South African Maritime Safety Authority and the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre.

Appointed as NSRI national spokesman in 2012, Lambinon is the voice that family members of those in distress hear when he keeps them informed of the progress of the rescue. He joined the NSRI as a paramedic and helicopter rescue swimmer in 1993 and is the contact for the Consulate in case of rescue of foreign nationals, playing an active role in the rescues and repatriation of many French citizens who have been rescued and assisted while visiting South Africa.
“All this makes it very natural in a way that the French government has decided to award you with the medal of Maritime Merit with the rank of Chevalier (Knight),” Farnaud told Lambinon.

Lambinon said that “this honour bestowed on myself today on behalf of the National Sea Rescue Institute, is indeed a great honour which we thank you tremendously and we can only accept that it spurs us on to further years of continuing to be upstanding citizens.”

Speaking to defenceWeb, Lambinon explained that NSRI members “don’t really do what we do to get any kind of award. We don’t look for that. That’s not the reason why we do it. But when you are recognized in this way, it does give you goose bumps, to think back on all of the stuff that you’ve done over the years, those critical moments and give you that boost to carry on doing it for as long as I can carry on doing it.”
“Without a doubt. I’m not the only person involved. All of our thousand volunteers around the country, the Station Commanders that have to feed information to me, the liaison that we have between each other. It’s a great honour for the NSRI,” he continued.

As part of a patrol mission in the French Southern and Antarctic Lands (TAAF), the Floréal surveillance frigate, based in La Reunion, is making a mid-mission stopover at the port of Cape Town from 19 to 23 November.

During its last visit in South Africa, in October 2017 and whilst moored in Durban harbour, the frigate was struck by an MSC container carrier during a violent storm.

The Executive Officer of Floréal, Lieutenant Commander Nicolas Flury, told defenceWeb that a repair and maintenance period lasting four months was carried out in Mauritius, whereafter the frigate conducted two missions in August and September in the north Indian Ocean as part of the Combined Maritime Forces Combined Task Force (CTF) 150.

For the current mission, Floréal left Reunion Island on a fishing protection mission in the French Southern territories, spending the first leg patrolling around Crozet Island before heading for Cape Town. The new commander on board, Commander Edouard Carrard, will take the opportunity to introduce himself to the local authorities, with cooperative visits being held with the SA Navy.

The second leg of the mission will see the frigate once again visiting the Crozet and Kerguelen Islands area on its IUU (Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported fishing) mission before heading back to Reunion.

The French have a permanent satellite surveillance system covering the southern Indian Ocean area of interest, providing the French Navy with an accurate picture of what is going on, whether there is a French ship patrolling or not.
“It helps us to focus our mission when we are at sea. We can depart the ship if we have a suspicion that something is going on”, Flury explained, “You have to have both, information system and action. Action without the information is not valuable and vice versa.”

Indeed, Flury confirms, the physical presence of the French Navy on a regular basis reduces instances of IUU fishing.