Portsmouth Sailor Given Bravery Award

21 March 2014, 07:57 | Updated: 21 March 2014, 07:59

A Portsmouth-based sailor, who helped prevent a environmental disaster, has been decorated in the latest round of military honours.

Chief Petty Officer Neil Halsey, 43, led the Royal Navy's three-man team that successfully prevented the Christos XXII tugboat from sinking on January 13 2013.

The tug, carrying 200 tonnes of diesel, crashed into the boat it was towing off the coast of Devon.

Even as the RNLI lifeboat crew withdrew from the stricken vessel, CPO Halsey decided to stay aboard, even at one point risking his life to re-enter the tug's engine room to locate the gash in the ship's hull.

Armed with just a handful of wooden wedges, CPO Halsey and his team managed to partially plug the hole and slow the intake of water by 70%.

CPO Halsey, who receives the Queen's commendation for Bravery, said:

"On board the ship, three of us got into our sea boat and took some equipment over to Christos XXII.

"When we got there she was lolling around in the sea and we found out the engine room hold was rapidly flooding.''

CPO Halsey said it was the fear of an oil slick that made him continue with his dangerous work.

He said:

"We found that there was 200 tonnes of fuel oil on board, the environmental damage that would have happened to the Torbay coast and the surrounding area would have been a horrible thing.''

But despite being forced to work in near darkness while engulfed with diesel fumes, CPO Halsey, based in Portsmouth, insists he was not worried for his safety.

He said:

"No, we get lots of training, we're regularly trained via the Royal Navy in pumping flooding in our drill units down in HMS Excellence.

"You just go into your training and there you go.

"The crew were very grateful that we saved their vessel.''

The vessel was later taken to nearby Portland harbour and repaired.

CPO Halsey is one of 20 Royal Navy personnel to be decorated in the latest military honours.