MNA National Council Report 2014

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals”.

David Thoreau

What the MNA has become after 25 years of campaigning and lobbying is surely an enduring tribute to our two founder members, Fred Harrell and Barry Osborne. The MNA has made a positive impact towards the greater recognition and awareness of the contribution made by Merchant Navy seafarers and fishermen and for their continued wellbeing. This year has been the busiest on record for the MNA and our members. We also continue to advise, inform and support many other organisations that also make a difference in our sector of interest.

Much has been achieved and much remains to be done but many of the MNA’s early goals are now an accepted part of our way of life. They are part of this countries maritime heritage; the national Merchant Navy Day, the MN ‘officially’ marching to the London Cenotaph with the RBL finally accepting MN Vets were ‘Under Command’ of the Admiralty during the WWI and WWII Convoys, the MN Seafarers Veterans badge, the definition of an MN Veteran, the acceptance of MN vessels under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986, the Arctic Emblem and then the Arctic Star after a thirteen year campaign plus forming the first ever national organisation that could advocate the views and concerns of  seafarers all over the UK and overseas. We should also be proud that many other merchant seafarers and fishermen have also benefitted from the national campaigns and lobbying activities initiated by members of the MNA. This may be also said of our campaign for the Royal Mail to issue a set of Merchant Navy stamps in 2013…the Battle of the Atlantic year.

We do have a few First Day presentation sets of the WWII Arctic stamps but all the others have now been sold and this has made a little extra money for our MNA Charity.

What a long way we have travelled from ensigns on broom handles to bespoke MNA Standards with our Standard Bearers wearing holsters and white gauntlets, the drills detailed in our MNA Guidelines document, updated this year, our MNA blazer badge and the widely accepted MN Wreath that continues to raise awareness of the MN, our standard letterhead and strapline all helping to focus minds and give a very distinct and recognisable profile.  We have established a recognisable and enduring profile. Our first MNA Standard is now laid-up in the beautiful wooden chapel at the National Memorial Arboretum. Soon we may enjoy the recognition accorded by a Royal Standard for the Merchant Navy, but more of that later. Our MN Vets, the former unsung heroes, are now increasingly remembered with many more local memorials, established by our MNA Branches all over UK and overseas. Three more branches this year with more being planned and another great new memorial in Ipswich that received wonderful support. It was a landmark event and follows what many more of our branches have already achieved in their local areas and what about all those red ensigns flying from local council buildings!

Every year we are getting closer to the tipping point of fifty branches reaching into the heart of even more local communities with even more MN memorials and church ‘wave’ windows for the years ahead. We also enjoy the support of eight other MN independent organisations with whom we have regular contact.  Many of them are invited to MNA events and all have been advised of our charitable status and how we are also there for them even if it is only for the benefit of our contacts.

You, shipmates, have helped to change the landscape of awareness and opened peoples hearts and minds like never before. The Red Ensign flies proudly from more and more local Council Offices and Government buildings than any time in our history. This now includes both towers of Tower Bridge who fly the red ensign on Merchant Navy Day and on the day of the Merchant Navy Day Commemorative Service (MNDCS)…and, as from the 26th August 2014, it will be permanently displayed at the flag mast in Trinity Square Gardens. This flag mast did not exist until the MNA requested Tower Hamlets to erect one in 2002. In the first year of the MNDCS, in 2001, we had to hire a mast. Tower Hamlets Council has been incredibly supportive, as have all those at Trinity House. We really appreciate all their support. Trinity Square Garden’s has benefitted greatly from its increased significance in the maritime calendar as a result more high profile events such as the MNDCS, the HCMM’s Remembrance Service, the dedication of the Falkland’s MN Memorial, the Falklands 25th Anniversary Service, the Battle of the Atlantic Service and other less publicised events such as reading every name of those who died in WWII over a period of 24 hours in 2012. The MNA initiated the MN Falklands memorial bringing together like-minded people of known ability and a record of high achievement. When our meetings with the CWGC, later this year, have been completed we also hope to have a new MN Falklands Conflict Remembrance book, similar to the existing WWII books, with the names of the merchant seafarers who lost their lives during that Conflict, always remembering the 3,000 who have already received the South Atlantic medal. I can also advise you today that the campaign the MNA supported for further recognition of those on active duty following cessation of the Conflict has been successful and there will now be another South Atlantic medal issued, without the leaves, for those who served in the area until October 24th 1982.

The often undervalued, unacknowledged and unsung role of the British Merchant Navy, the Cinderella Service, and its merchant seafarers has received increased recognition over the last 25 years. Their life stories are beginning to be told, their voices heard. Only with the MNA’s national structure and a continued national consensus could we have achieved the necessary level of support; bringing seafarers together, across a range of issues, in a professional and effective way. Seafarers now have a united voice for change, the first time in history. Meeting many local Councillors, Government Ministers, senior Civil Servants, very Senior members of HM Forces and enjoying support from No10 Downing Street and most especially The Queen and members of the Royal Family…Her Majesty is still the Master of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets.

I remember having many conversations with Gordon White, one of our earliest members who, with our President Vivien Foster, started the Exeter Branch in 1989 and then went on to help Plymouth get ‘underway’. Gordon told me of his meeting with the then Minister for Veterans, Glenda Jackson, the former actress. Those early years were tough and on occasion rough, but the men and women of the class ‘89 took their campaigns to the streets, to the Town Halls, to the cities, to the people and then right to the heart of Government. Their sense of deep injustice is imbedded in what we are as an organisation today; it will surely be a part of what we are in the next 25 years.

There has been a sea-change in the perspective of how our merchant seafarers are viewed by the general public and, may I say, in many other countries all over the world.  The MNA wrote letters supporting Australian merchant seafarers in their campaign for Merchant Navy Day. That was achieved when the current Australian Government were first elected and a similar campaign in New Zealand was also successful as indeed was the Canadian campaign earlier. Now possibly Malta, Singapore and Nigeria will soon have a Merchant Navy Day…all have started campaigns for wider recognition. Merchant Seafarers working together across the oceans, campaigning for recognition and all from that first National Council meeting here in Birmingham on the 9th May 1989. Mentioning Canada I am reminded of earlier letters Tim and I received from MN Vets in Canada asking us to verify them as genuine MN Vets so that they could apply for the special Veterans car number plate, which gave them parking privileges. We did raise this idea with one of the five Veterans Ministers who we have worked with but received no support from other Associations although during those discussions we did support another initiative for the Veterans Card. The MNA depends, for its continued achievements, on our collective sense of injustice, our strength of will and of the integrity of our actions.

The community of seafarers, that is the MNA, was particularly exemplified when many members, family, friends, supports and invited guests came together for the many mna25 Anniversary events all over the country. It was a pleasure for your Executive Officers to join with so many of you at so many events and see what a huge effort you have made to promote and present your branch to many more organisations and key personalities in your area: exceptional, well done to you all. What can you do next year, shipmates, to maintain the momentum? These events and many more local and national events throughout the year clearly demonstrate the value of the fellowship, friendship and family that is the Merchant Navy Association. It is clearly the end of the beginning after 25 years but there is, no end, to what we can still achieve.

Action is the foundation to all success, to us reaching our goals. All change starts with a desire for that change. Every issue, belief or assumption is what stands between each of us reaching our goals and improving every relationship and it is the same for any organisation.

So far this AGM year, with over 100 dates in our MNA Diary, National Councillors have represented the MNA at four Charity AGM’s, The Confederation of Service Charities (COBSEO) AGM, an Educational Seminar organised by the Nautical Institute, a two day Charity Seminar, the Annual National Seafarers Service, two Trinity House 500th Anniversary events, the Marine Society and Sea Cadets (MSSC) AGM, Conference of Naval Associations (CONA) meetings, Port Welfare Committee meetings, 70th Anniversary events in France for D-day, four branch dedications of new memorials, the launch of two new MNA Branches, the annual HMT Lancastria Service, the Falklands Chapel Service in Pangbourne, HM Armed Forces Day in Stirling, regular National Council meetings and at some of your Branch meetings. We have represented the MNA on the Executive Committee for the Merchant Navy Medal, attended meetings for the MNDCS at Tower Hill and in the remaining months of the AGM year will be attending a two day welfare seminar organised by the MNWB, the Maritime Foundation Media Awards at the Institute of Directors, the Drumhead Service in Edinburgh, the MN Service at Leith and a number of Branch Christmas lunches and dinners.

This year, as in the previous fourteen years, the MNA’s National Office has been open 12 hours a day and our MNA National Secretary is often answering telephone calls and emails well into the night. These contacts vary from career enquiries in the early part of the year until the summer months, welfare issues, research enquiries, branch replies to the many emails circulated to keep members updated and then replying to hundreds of people and organisations seeking information and/or advice every month. We established the National MNA office requesting the GPO divert all MN enquiries to our Head Office. This small detail has insured all Merchant Navy enquiries have someone to contact. This means that not all calls are relevant to the MNA but we, that is Tim Brant, can help them. There is no other service like this in the country, probably in any country. It is a service we offer for everyone and it contributes to the overall awareness of the maritime sector.

One of the AGM’s just mentioned was the MSSC AGM held at the Haberdashers Livery Hall in London.  Two organisations came together ten years ago to form the MSSC and they have recently been reviewing and re-thinking the best way to meet their objectives going forward. They have an improving range of educational opportunities ranging from GCSE’s to Post Graduate as well as life long learning for transferable skills. 

Many of you will remember the library boxes arriving at the bottom of the gangway. They reported having received 9,000 enquiries for courses in the area life-long learning within the last 12 months. This demonstrates the level of the interest in their learning programmes at sea. The MNA are also delighted that Capt Nigel Palmer and his board have elected Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, the previous First Sea Lord, as their new President.  The MNA enjoyed the support of the former First Sea Lord during his time in office and particularly with the programmes surrounding the Battle of the Atlantic (BOA) events in 2013. The MNA National Chairman was invited to be a member of the RN’s BOA13 Organising Committee as he was for the MoD Committee organising the 25th Anniversary of the Falklands Conflict in 2007. The MSSC AGM also reported on the new TS Royalist, which will soon be completed with one of their main sponsors being Greenwich Hospital Fund. This fund began in the 17th century by taking subs off all seafarers but has very limited horizons in its outlook towards the welfare of the modern merchant seafarer. The MSSC training opportunities and their links with Middlesex University are well established and offer viable options for those seeking careers at sea. The MNA, however, has some concern that some of those leaving one or more of the eight leading maritime colleges may not have the benefit of career guidance to optimise their chances in the world of work. We have raised these concerns as we learn more of the issues surrounding the availability of work at sea and the role of employment agencies and the distribution of SMART money…the £15 million of Government money available for training. We have spoken to College lecturers; those on training courses and current seagoing personnel to better inform our discussions. Many go online for jobs, some more senior officers are prepared to drop a rank for work to improve their CV’s in the hope of more permanent positions. Some apprentices have advised us that they are not invited to retain their employment with a company when they have completed their apprenticeship.  They blame the Tonnage Tax rules that require companies to train apprentices but then release them after having benefitted from the tax relief.  Of course not everyone is likely to be employed based on the numbers applying and the jobs available and certainly not on UK registered vessels.

The MNA believes the expectations of apprentices need to be managed with contingencies in place for those who leave college without work placements. We also believe consideration needs to be given to a central system dedicated to the opportunities available for employment, the qualifications required and the duration of the contract. The one area where demand has outstripped supply is in the engineering and technical work at sea. Even with this sector we have received a letter from the mother of an engineer cadet at Clyde College detailing how engineering cadets are experiencing changes to their contracts before they complete their course.  Their pay reduced by £80 a month with no explanation for the reduction. The MNA does not have the expertise in this area and the letter was forwarded to Nautilus and discussed with the MNTB. More work to do here and the National Council has asked Martin Reed to review the career opportunities for those going to sea and if the MNA could then contribute in some way. We do have over 1,100 seagoing men and women connected on our MNA Facebook site…well worth a visit and a ‘like’. We have also written to Admiral Lord West, our Patron, and advised him of our concerns as he is the Chancellor of Southampton University…a man of many parts and many interests… he and his wife were greatly missed at this years MNDCS. This is the first MNDCS he has missed in the last 7 years. Lord West has worked hard to raise the MN profile and we will seek his advice when we reapply for approval of the MNA de-faced red ensign next year.  Our MNA Patron has also been instrumental in achieving recognition of the Merchant Navy Medal as a national honour. We hope it will clear all the protocols involved by 2016. It will continue to be for meritorious service and it is hoped the MNM Committee will continue to support seafarers in achieving this very notable recognition. If any member wishes to progress an application please ask the National Chairman for advice.

The Merchant Navy Association Boat Club (MNABC) has maintained last year’s momentum to gather support for the MNA’s SEAVUE Watch-keeping Afloat scheme. Great credit must be attributed to the energy, enthusiasm and persistence of the boat club Commodore, Clive Edwards ably supported by Keith Langridge.  Hardly a week goes by when the National Office and the National Chairman does not receive an email advising us of yet another Organisation that is interested in taking forward the objectives of the SEAVUE scheme. We have the approval of the MCA to go forward with this initiative and we are now members of the Royal Yachting Association to further promote this potentially lifesaving scheme. Clive has just received the approval that we will now have an entry in the Norfolk Broads Green Book. No other organisation has sought to bring all inland waters, rivers and off-shore sea areas into the one ‘spot, plot and report’ system dedicated to the safety of everyone enjoying sailing and boating. Thank you Clive and anyone who is not a member, please talk to Clive during the lunch break. Membership is free to MNA members. It is truly amazing what you can get for your £8 annual membership! Please also remember to continue to look in our MNA Benefits Directory for significant discounts. Our MN Veterans also have access to the HM Forces Directory with a huge range of offers and discounts.

Many of you will have seen the picture on the cover of our latest Full Ahead…the Aquitania, a hospital ship. This year and for the next three years we are continuing to raise awareness of the Merchant Navy and its merchant Seafarers in WWI. Those attending the MNDCS heard about one of only two civilians ever honoured by being awarded the Victoria Cross. Not quite true as they could not have been awarded such a huge honour if they were not first made officers in the RNR. Thank you to the RN once again; you were there when our convoys were being torpedoed, strafed and bombed, you witnessed tens of thousands of merchant seafarers loosing their lives with no grave but the sea. You witnessed the huge losses with one in four merchant seafarers being killed with no grave but the sea.

Some of you will have met Roger Hoefling and listened to his readings at the last two MNDCS’s.  We would like to thank Roger for his continued support. He liaised with the Tower Bridge operators and has given a considerable amount of his time to helping promote the Merchant Navy veteran and the MNA. This year he was responsible for a detailed press release focusing on WWI, which was circulated to 179 national and local newspapers as well as all the prime time media broadcasters. Thank you so much for your help and guidance Roger. Roger has also influenced Islington Council to honour Captain Purslow VC, as a Merchant Navy Captain, next year. This will be one of many events on the 2015 calendar.

This year the Royal British Legion (RBL) is also focusing on the individual bravery for those who served in the Armed Forces during WWI.  It was disappointing that, yet again, the RBL ignores the role of our merchant navy veterans in times of war and conflict.  When challenged in regard to this insensitive betrayal of history and the exclusion of the 15,000 merchant seafarers they assert they are a service organisation…well what about the Fourth Service?  This was further exacerbated by the use of their strapline “Every Man Remembered”. The RBL promoted that ‘every man from across the Commonwealth will be remembered as individuals by someone alive today’. A great concept and one that understands not everyone died in the trenches, horrifying as that was, but many thousands more died in Great Britain and away at sea. Some have reasoned that WWI was actually won by the blockading of enemy ports and our sea power. They should never be forgotten by anyone and especially the RBL.

This year is the 70th Anniversary of D-Day and many members joined with others in travelling to France for the events in Caen, Bayeux and Arromanches.  Some member’s drove across, some joined organised bus trips and some sailed across.  Nine members, and a dog, all from the MNA’s Weymouth & Portland Branch, sailed to Caen proudly displaying their MNABC burgee when alongside.  MN wreaths were laid in Caen and Arromanches and many of our MN Vets were made very welcome with Don Hunter once again being interviewed.  Don has already received Croix de Guerre in honour of his achievements in France; however, the French Government has now declared that all D-Day Vets are able to apply for this wonderful French honour.  Please contact the National Office if you require more information. We can be proud of the fact that one of our members was responsible for raising the funds and organising the dedication of the Merchant Navy Memorial Plaque on the sea wall alongside the museum at Arromanches.  Don Hunter has really made a difference and with the wonderful support of his wife Jean, has made significant contributions in his local area, Dover, with another memorial to all those who lost their life at sea.  Anybody who knows Don understands that once he gets his teeth into something he never stops until he gets what he wants and that has always been the appropriate recognition for merchant seafarers and fishermen who gave their lives for their country. He was a Marconi man during WWII working on British and Danish merchant ships as well as a Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships (DEMS) Gunner. Thank you Don and Jean.

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to speak to members at the Bristol Branch. I wanted to introduce a sense of the past, an awareness of the mind-set during the Great War.  I hoped to evoke a sense of how our two founder members must have felt at the end of the Second World War having lived through the First… Captain Purslow VC was the subject of the speech and there was an open forum afterwards. 

“We set our sails to achieve our goals and although we experienced a few storms along the way
we remained firmly on course to meet our objectives”.

We are delighted to report that the MNA membership has been consistently improving with 179 new members this year and two new branches in Morecambe and Mansfield. Well done to those new branch members and we look forward to visiting more new branches next year.

We are delighted that the National Office is still receiving applications for the MN Seafarers Veteran’s Badge.  This very unique recognition gave noticeable and significant acknowledgement of the commitment of all those who support the Armed Services in times of war and conflict. I know many of you wear the badge with great pride, thank you for all you have done for your Country.

The MNA was first represented at the Governments MoD Veterans’ Plenary in 2000.  In that year we also established a good working relationship with the Veterans Policy Unit that continues to this day. It was at the 2004 Veterans Plenary when the HM Armed Forces Badge was announced for WWII veterans.  We lobbied the then Director of the Veterans Policy Unit (VPU), Malcolm Lingwood, who agreed to a meeting at the MoD in Whitehall.  He proposed what you see today with the Red Ensign in ‘support’ and behind the existing badge. The MNA became one of the two verifying and issuing bodies…the other being the Federation of Merchant Mariners as they were the only other MN representatives attending the Veterans Plenary.  This was good because it gave wider support for the special and unique MN Seafarers Badge.  The MoD still pay for all the badges, the package, the postage and the man-hours undertaken by our National Secretary, Tim Brant. He verifies then distributes each badge recording everything in detail should parliament need to ask any questions. It is wonderful to see so many vets wearing the badge so proudly as the result of another MNA campaign for recognition. Many of you will not be surprised to know that Tim Brant donates all of his MoD ‘earnings’ to the MNA Charity Welfare Fund.

In 2005 we started to work with the VPU to agree a definition for an MN Veteran in readiness for the issue of the badge.  However, after the badge became available in 2006 we wanted to further raise the profile of the MN Vet within the Armed Forces Community. We worked with the Director General of Seafarers UK, Commodore Barry Bryant (Falklands Vet) to present a more comprehensive definition.  Barry wrote the definition and guided it through COBSEO, where he is one of the Trustees.  Then COBSEO presented the definition to Government where it was agreed and accepted.  This year we have lobbied for even further recognition…to be included in the text of the Government Covenant with Armed Forces Community.  We have the support of Government Ministers but some reticence from others who agree these matters. Barry Bryant is still lobbying very hard for recognition for inclusion in the Covenant. Thank you so much Barry.

Once again this year the relationship we have built with another wonderful veterans organisation, The Not Forgotten Association, has been of benefit to our MN veterans.  Every year the Queen welcomes veterans to a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace.  There have also been visits to St James’ Palace, boat trips and Christmas lunches in their annual programme.  You will see that in the latest Full Ahead there is a report from Mike Wooten who is Chairman of our MNA Tamworth Branch. 

The Tamworth Branch is our nearest branch to the National Memorial Arboretum and that great national Arboretum has seen a major expansion since the RBL accepted responsibility.  There are plans for a very significant expansion of the existing facilities to allow even higher visitor numbers.  David Parsons, Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB) and MNA member, had a meeting with the Chairman of the NMA in September.  The MNA were invited but had previous commitments on MN Day. David confirmed that it is likely about 1/3 of the trees, in what is the largest living memorial at the Arboretum, will be chopped down to allow proper growth of the remaining 2/3’s.  They grow them close to grow them straight.  It has been agreed that when more land becomes available from the Quarry it will be allocated to those missing ‘ships’ of the convoy.  Many of you will have visited the NMA this year and in previous years when we dedicated the MNA memorial stone and earlier for the dedication of the MN Memorial. The RFA Sir Percival anchor memorial was another occasion the MNA worked with the MNWB to recognise and remember a ship engaged in the Falklands Conflict. The RFA have also recently dedicated a wonderful memorial for all those ships in which merchant seafarers lost their lives.

You will see a regular page in Full Ahead that records those who have ‘crossed the bar’.  Many members have crossed the bar in the last 25 years and I would like us to remember them all today. Their commitment, their courage and their lives. The MNA Researchers have produced many records for our members and their families over the years.

Many of our original researchers have also crossed the bar including very recently Don Harris. He was an amazing man who received his Arctic Medal from HRH Prince Phillip aboard the HQS Wellington in 2013.  They will all be missed and we could not possibly be were we are today without their active commitment and voluntary service for others. Everyone one us are volunteers and we work freely for the benefit of our fellow seafarers and may I take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you.

I would like to thank John Rix for continuing to moderate the huge amount of information that he receives for the Full Ahead.  This magazine began as a newsletter and became a sin magazine in 1998 with one edition annually.  It was clear to the Executive in 2000 that this did not meet members’ needs to recount and record their experiences and interests.  The publisher at the time refused to accommodate our requests so we approached the current publisher and agreed terms for a quarterly magazine.  Print paper comes in a certain size and when it is cut up into A4 size it makes exactly 16 pages.  This is the most economical fit and is why the magazine remains that size.  Our thanks most go to Nigel Clarke who edits the material to fit the pages and sells the advertising to allow the magazine to be printed free of charge.  We would like to thank all those who have contributed to this exceptional magazine including those charities whose advertising make it possible to print the magazine and also advise our readers of their continued commitment to support all seafarers.

Nigel is also our MNA and Red Duster web-master.  This year we have made changes and updates to our websites and are now in the process of making them mobile friendly.  Much of this style is with a photo image that when selected takes you to a page associated with that photo or image.  This allows for a readable display on a smart phone.  Nigel also offered advice on establishing an MNA presence on Facebook.  We tested the site for three months and then accepted Matt Finns offer to monitor and manage the site.  Matt continues to grow the site and now has over 1,100 seagoing mariners engaged with the minutiae of life that is the way of long distance comms.  Our congratulations to Matt and in passing his ‘ticket’.   Mike Atherton, a former Lancashire and England cricketer, is reputed to have had FEC on his locker door.  He was destined to be the Future England Captain.  Could it be possible that Matt could have FMNAC on his cabin door?  Remember we must always keep one eye on the past and one eye to the future. We must further consider, in this year ahead, who, when and how the MNA Executive Officers, the five of us who work every day on MNA business, can allow the next generation to learn how to administer and manager the Charity. 

Gareth Peaston has raised this matter with the MNA National Council and also the need for someone willing to manage a brief as an MNA Events Co-ordinator.  As the MNA Charity continues to grow we will need more hands to the helm.

The Weymouth Veterans Parade was another amazing day and once again the MN supplied the largest single grouping, even though the total number of Service and Ex-Servicemen clearly outnumbered our own.  It is a very special event and this year the Council took it to another level.  It is also wonderful when so many MNA members stay overnight in the many B & B’s.  We know many of you have special arrangements and book your rooms from year to year at your favourite place.  Everyone is made to feel so welcome and the ‘esprit de corps‘ is outstanding.

Once MN always MN.

This is the strap line on the MNA’s promotional bookmarks for mna25.

MNA bookmarks have also been designed for the long-term promotion of the MNA and they have been particularly well received. We will continue to supply you with as many as you need. Their costs have been sponsored. It was felt we needed to present a more “modern” design that would resonate more with the seafarers of today and this and the mna25 badge are two examples of how we will continue to reach out to everyone, both ashore and afloat.

The Corporation of Trinity House was incorporated on 20th May 1514, when King Henry VIII granted a Royal Charter to a guild of mariners troubled by the poor conduct of unregulated pilots on the Thames, incorporating the Master Wardens and Assistants of the Guild Fraternity or Brotherhood of the Most Glorious and Undivided Trinity and of Saint Clement in the Parish of Deptford Strond, the Corporation’s full name to this day.

Five hundred years later Trinity House is still working hard to serve the mariner as a General Lighthouse Authority, a Deep Sea Pilotage Authority and the UK’s largest-endowed maritime charity, dispersing funds for the welfare of retired seamen, the training of cadets and the promotion of safety at sea. The MNA has attended a number of events in London and supported them with an advert in their Anniversary magazine
This year the work on the revision of the MNA’s Guidelines has been approved by your National Council, distributed to members on two occasions and the final document then distributed once more.  The National Council appointed a sub-committee for this review and that sub-committee are also reviewing member’s suggestions for amendments to the MNA Constitution.  Our founder members and their shipmates on that first National Council produced a very good set of Rules but it was clear by 2001 that local Branches had amended sections to meet their own needs.  One of the London Branches at that time also introduced new positions, like Deputy National President, so it was agreed to revise and update the Constitution in 2001.

This took two years, as it was essential to achieve a consensus before members voted their approval at an AGM.  Concern had been raised, prior to 1999; in regard to the way elections were conducted.  This section received special attention and now ensures no one person can get elected to a senior position in the MNA without prior Branch experience and knowledge of MNA business and policies.  The previous National Chairman was elected by a small number of members attending those years AGM…and he had only been an MNA member for about one year.  This caused such concern, at the time, that eight branches left the MNA.  When I put my name forward at the AGM in 1999 it was essential to receive the support of members and I was not confirmed as your Chairman until that wider process had been completed. This and other experiences were taken into account when the Constitution was revised the first time…that was then printed into a small booklet that was sponsored by our accountants. There were a few storms in those days but those with grievances and alternative agendas have either been expelled by the members or resigned.

In 2005 members put a motion forward that the MNA seek charity status.  The National Executive Officers worked together to complete the required paperwork but we were refused registration.  This mainly because our Objectives were too membership orientated.

Semantics, but we downloaded the Charity Commissions model constitution and worked from there until we had something that would achieve our/your aims. A charity must have explicit terms for much wider responsibilities and attend to the needs of all seafarers and their families. We have ben a registered charity since August 2010.

Since then we have developed a marketing strategy that seeks to promote the needs of seafarers and offer initiatives toward their welfare and wellbeing.  This is headlined under the MNA’s “The SEA-REASON take action” campaign and has been promoted in a number of maritime magazines and charity newsletters.  The MNA’s ‘Help the Helper’ fund is unique to the MNA Charity.  This fund was the result of members raising awareness of their experiences. A person who is ill can often receive excellent help but the person who looks after them for much more than fifty hours a week receives nothing.  This is wrong. The MNA established a ‘matched funding’ agreement with Seafarers UK and we now administer a unique fund of over £10,000 towards that specific need.  So far this year we have made grants of £250 to three people and we are processing another application that should gain the approval of the National Council today. 

Nobody wants to be seen to be a charitable case and this year the National Council approved the concept of seeking to re-name our grants and welfare opportunities.  This needs much more work next year but one example is to re-name grants from our welfare fund as a Social Bonus.  We have also raised this initiative with the DG of Seafarers UK who agreed it had some merit.  The question is how can we best get people to accept help when they clearly need a hand-up more than just a charity hand-out?  Your ideas would be most welcome and perhaps you would consider the needs in your local areas and then how best we could further evolve our local MNA Welfare contacts to form local welfare hubs.  At the moment the problems of an aging population and more expensive drugs are not receiving the active attention they need.  There will never be sufficient local funds to meet everyone’s needs so how can the MNA contribute to keeping everyone living as independently as possible? Perhaps supported by a routine of agreed visits?  This is something that requires more discussion amongst members. Annual visits for home safety checks or quarterly for personal care?  It is perhaps opportune at this point to record the MNA’s great appreciation for the work of the Royal Alfred, Nautilus House, Care Ashore and Scottish Veterans for their wonderful support for all seafarers. Teamwork is essential in bringing people together to meet their individual needs and for a better quality of life. 

It is never easy to make life easier for someone but the MNA believes we can always make life
better in some way.

To continue advancing what the MNA CHARITY can do for others please remember the tax-effective rewards of Gift Aid for those still paying tax. Anyone not paying tax could consider a legacy gift to the MNA CHARITY. You will see from our Financial Report how generous you and others have been with donations.  Thank you so much for all those who gave so generously…many of you send a little extra with your memberships subs and that is really appreciated. Thank you all so much.  Please now consider leaving a small LEGACY in your will.  Remember, there are no overheads in our charity as no one is paid…we are all volunteers, so all your gifts and donations go directly into the Welfare and/or MNDCS Funds. It is your choice so please give generously for the benefit of other seafarers and their families. You may also wish to donate to the new Merchant Navy Fund managed by Seafarers UK…they gave £2.5 million last year.

At our last National Council meeting future funding and a range of other topics were discussed. The  details of another initiative, sponsored by the concerns of members, was raised that day.  Members drew attention to the escalating costs of funerals; £3,460 is the national average.  Local Council costs have increased by 20% in one year and with other costs also escalating it is expected that the average cost will increase to £5,000 in five years time.  The MNA Funeral Saving Plan will need your approval but the NC also wanted to establish a fund towards this need and to include other charities to enable a larger final grant.  Discussions have taken place with grant providers and when approval has been received the Funeral Fund will be established.  We have also had a meeting with the Hospital Society who are the only charity offering regular grants for funeral costs, and then only £500 towards the costs.  Their criteria is a minimum of ten years at sea and being in receipt of State Benefits.  This is quite a tough criterion but they are reasonable people and have given grants to 84 applicants so far this year.  We have also had discussions with David Parsons of the MNWB and we will circulate their booklet on Council funded funerals. The Rev Phillip Audin DL, from our Bristol Branch, advises that he is conducting more and more Council funerals every year. I will see David Parson’s at the two-day welfare seminar in November.  David needs a more formal approach to take to his Board but once again believes the idea of more grant aid for funerals has merit.

Can the MNA continue to make a difference?
Yes we can.

Remember memories live longer than dreams shipmates so lets all work hard to give value to those memories.  We will also be seeking to generate interest in the maritime business sector for a Corporate Support Programme.  This could include sponsoring an annual Veterans Day Trip or an event or some of our MNA promotional material.  You may remember we have been trying to find a sponsor for the postage costs associated with distributing the Full Ahead magazine four times a year.

May I say it is an honour and a privilege to have been your National Chairman for 15 years, Malcolm Matheson and Tim Brant have served in National positions for even longer and both have other organisations they voluntarily give their time to which includes working full days at the RNLI shop in Cleethorpes, being a Third Age Visitor, MNA Branch appointments, Sea Safety Inspections, Lighthouse Club Secretary, and the Honourable Company of Master Mariners.  Vivien Foster, although not able to work in the day-to-day affairs of the MNA, has been working hard to promote the MNA and attends many events and meetings. Vivien has been a powerful and persistent voice for the recognition and remembrance of merchant seafarers and fishermen from the first few months…that’s over 25 years shipmates.  Willie McFarlane has a full time job with the Water Authority and Roy Glencross organises appointments for a carpet cleaning business as well as being the Treasurer of five Masonic Lodges. Shipmates please join with me in recognising the dedication and commitment of the National President, Vivien Foster, Malcolm Mathison, Tim Brant, Willie McFarlane and Roy Glencross your Executive Officers. Thank you to all our National Councillors and those co-opted to help. Thank you to Brian Grey for his continued dedication to the MNA Shop and Slop Chest. Thank you also to the very notable “Wings” Barry for his amazing dedication to his duties as the MNA’s National Standard Bearer…he has no equal.

Thank you all so much for your continued support for the MNA and our members, the wider community of seafarers and those in our community of seafarers who have benefited from much of the work and many of the initiatives progressed locally as well as nationally over the last 25 years. It is wonderful to be part of such a marvellous adventure with so many good people. You can’t go wrong in good company and you are good company.

I hope you, like me, look forward to the next 25 years?

John Sail
MNA National Chairman

MNA EXECUTIVE REPORT – 2014 (alternative pdf file)