This medal will be awarded not only for individual acts of gallantry in saving lives at sea, but also for collective heroism as, for instance, to members of a boat's crew. According to circumstances, this medal can be awarded in gold, silver or bronze; awards of the gold medal being extremely rare. A high standard of gallantry is also required to become eligible for the other two specimens. Holders are entitled to add the letters SGM to ther names.
Conferment of the award is the authority of the Ministry of Transport which it derives not from a Royal Warrant but from the Merchant Shipping Acts of 1854 and 1894.
The front of the medal bears the head of the reigning monarch with the legend: "Awarded by the Ministry of Transport for gallantry in saving life." The reverse shows a man in the sea, holding on to a spar, signalling to a lifeboat; another man supporting a rescued seaman and a woman and a child sitting on a rock.