MNA EXECUTIVE REPORT – OCTOBER 2015

Shipmates, the world we know is changing. Life will never be quite the same again. What has happened? The future of the Shipping Forecast is now in doubt!  Britain might have to say farewell to ‘Heavy snow showers’ and ‘Falling rain followed by mist and fog’; we might have to say goodbye to ‘Southwest gale 8 to storm 10’ and many more wonderful and evocative sea-sentences…and what about hearing of all those iconic areas?  Some of you here today perhaps still listen to the radio, on the old long wave frequency, often sitting at home with a mug of cocoa and riveted by that meteorological lullaby of constant change. 

We have experienced many changes within the maritime sector, past and present. Change is all around us and that will continue but change must come with

progress for the MNA.

The way that we see the world and the way others now see merchant seafarers and the Merchant Navy is partially as a result of the changes that you have made in your own lives and by your sustained support for a NATIONAL consensus of opinion that seeks answers to expressed needs and then articulates policies for change. You here today and many more at home and abroad have made a difference and we thank you for your continued support towards even greater recognition and understanding of the needs of all seafarers. Please continue what you have been progressing and let us all try to do even more. May I also thank all the National Councillors who have made it possible to progress our great organisation and continue the work of those who came before us.

Although our President and Vice Presidents do not get involved with our day to day affairs or the National Council Vivien Foster and the VPs are often the image of what people remember and they have all given so much over so many years, particularly Vivien who remains as gregarious and expressive as ever. There is no doubt where her heart resides, it is with you. Vivien has also been elected as the Chairperson of the Plymouth Merchant Navy Monument Appeal Committee. This will realise a long held desire for a Merchant Navy memorial on Plymouth Hoe. ‘Baz’ Gregory has been a true campaigner for recognition in that area and is also on that committee. He has made a significant contribution to awareness of the needs of the seafaring community. Many of you will remember when the MNA received the Freedom of the City of Plymouth and that was mainly as a result of Jack…another man who changed his life to make a difference.  The new memorial will be an enduring recognition of the courage and commitment of our merchant seafarers and fishermen.

Our national life and our ability to pay our way, as a socially developed country, would be immeasurably poorer without our seafaring expertise and the continuing conduct of the carriage of goods by sea. Our current seafarers have much to be proud of and they should be more valued as should the UK ports with one ship docking every four minutes. The decline of the UK Merchant Fleets from one of the largest the world has ever known to now being smaller than that of the Netherlands, Japan and Italy is fact.  It is one-third the size of Singapore’s Merchant Navy. However we still have over 30,000 people employed at sea but not all on British registered vessels. Throughout the year we have been seeking clarification on the way certain apprenticeships have been managed and how well the colleges support those who have no sponsors. There are also a number of interesting commercial organisations that are given SMART Government funds as bursaries to sponsor apprentices.  The Executive have discussed the possibility of the MNA applying for funds to both school and mentor apprentices in deck, engine room and technical departments. Once proposals are firm then action will be taken. ‘Silver Mentors’ (thinking of the wartime MN lapel badge) could act as MNA Ambassadors. This process is underway and it can be joined with the existing ‘Adopt a School’ scheme that has been operational for over fifteen years. That scheme was based on the ‘Ship Adoption’ scheme. Vets and senior MNA members visit their local school and talk about their experiences and promote opportunities today. Thank you to all those who gave their time this year and we hope you are able to continue that journey for your school children. A recent report indicated that only 17% of children had heard of apprenticeships…how many of those had even heard of the Merchant Navy?

Many more of you are also getting much more involved with responsibilities in other areas of local interest such as School Governors, Harbour Commissioners, Port Welfare Committee members and some are JPs.  Well done to you all. Building positive relationships is part of what we seek to achieve and this has made change more of a probability and less of a possibility.

Change has also just emerged in the way the Royal British Legion (RBL) administers and manages the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall. Last year’s event was well organised but our MN Vets were asked to sit in the audience at the very last minute. When enquiries were made nothing was received for the next three months and even then no proper explanation. Once again, as in the previous 20 years, the two days of support and accommodation was given by the MNWB. Our Big MNA thanks to David Parsons and his team for their time and support. The 2015 Festival has now been marred by the actions of the RBL Executive who first invited 6 MN Vets in July and then retracted that invitation in August. The MNA made representation during September but we were not given the courtesy of a reply. 

Contact was made with Lords West, McKenzie and Greenway to take our concerns along the corridors of influence. In this 70th Anniversary Year of the End of WWII the RBL’s decision seems quite extraordinary. May I thank Arthur Murray from our Dumfries Branch and Paul Compton from our Weymouth Branch who raised these issues with me on behalf of two of the ‘invited’ veterans. It appears the RBL agenda is to ‘fashion’ the Festival event for serving personnel and the Cenotaph for Veterans. The role of veterans has gradually been diminished at the Royal Albert Hall with even the Standard Bearers mainly being in place behind the stage before the ‘show’ was underway. The televisual aspects seem to be gaining importance over content…the clue is in the name, Festival of Remembrance; Lest they Forget.

Our Vets have been at the heart of much of the change in perspective of how the MN’s wartime contributions are now perceived both within the maritime community and the general public. Our core vision is to bring all serving and retired seafarers together in a spirit of companionship, consideration and commitment towards a united lobby for our community of the sea. This is a change in the way merchant seafarers, from very diverse experiences, have ever worked before… getting together, staying together and working towards agreed objectives. The larger the group of people you represent the more Government is likely to listen and take you seriously so maintaining the MNA National consensus is critical for continued change. Our Association is totally unique in our sector and our members include such a diverse range of experiences across many years.  The “launch” of the MNA was a huge step-change that developed at least two thousand enduring friendships and will continue to bring people together in a spirit of shared experiences. We seek to reach greater levels of friendship and support in the future and you can help guide our actions. We have tasted success this year as in previous years, however, just like a fine beer may be judged with only one sip, it is always better to be thoroughly sure.

The Seafarers Welfare Cluster meeting this year was an ‘Older Persons Seminar’….

focusing not just on our Vets but older seafarers, their dependents and their families. The event was organised once again by the MNWB who had invited a wide range of maritime charities to take part. This was an excellent and thought provoking day and you can be assured that there are many people ‘out there’ who have the interests of seafarers at the heart of what they do in their lives. Some of the areas of concern discussed could be facilitated by further development of the community-based support enabled by the MNA’s Regional Welfare Clusters that have been developing over the years. There is still much work to do in this area particularly for the smaller branches.  They need to gather more local welfare information and keep it on file.

Thank you to all those Branch Chairman who have helped take this initiative forward and all the Branch Welfare Officers who offer pastoral support. Many of you send your members a birthday card from the Branch and visit them when they are ill or in hospital…wonderful commitment to our MNA Family but please always take care to read the SSAFA booklet on home visits before you enter anybody’s home. This was circulated four years ago and we still hold a few of the booklets in stock. No one should visit members as a representative of the Branch unless they have approval of the Branch Chairman and have read that excellent booklet. 

The MNA is a Constituent member of the MNWB and that was another significant change in our status within the maritime voluntary community…as was our membership of NCVO and COBSEO.  Our COBSEO membership contributed to the approval of a new definition for a Merchant Navy Veteran.  A Seafarers UK initiative with COBSEO’s support brought acceptance from the veteran community and HM Government. We are hoping that this may also be the path of acceptance for our Vets receiving approval to be part of the HM Government Covenant within HM Forces.

Once again the MNA can offer our deepest thanks to Cdre Barry Bryant for progressing this campaign for further change in recognition. With 1 in 10 British adults being veterans, nearly 5 million, it is essential they all receive support and that includes our MN Vets. In 2012 a paper was produced detailing what support was required across government. In 2014 another paper detailed how best to facilitate transition. Of course this was focused on HM Forces but in times of conflict this consideration is also essential for members of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets. Local Authorities in particular have an obligation to support what is termed ‘Community Covenants’. This is to help raise public interest and awareness, promote integration into local life and help join all local groups together to help support the wider community. Many towns and cities have already promoted and formally signed the revised Covenant but we still believe we will be included in some way at a later date. We have not received any recent news but remain hopeful of a positive outcome early next year. Of course we will keep you all advised through the usual channels…your Branch Contacts emailed for Branch circulation at meetings, the Full Ahead magazine, the MN Pulse online, our MNA Facebook site and the new enhanced website now being managed by Terry Hughes. 

May I thank Nigel Clarke and his wife Shirley for their work on all our social media platforms over many years and look forward to how Terry can take the website forward over the years ahead. We will also be converting the Red Duster site to WordPress next year. There is a huge amount of text to transfer on this site and it will take time. If you have anything you wish to suggest or contribute for our websites and Facebook site please contact Tim or myself. Thanks also to Nigel for his work designing and producing our MNA Full Ahead magazine four times a year.  Great work.

This year’s Shipwrecked Mariners AGM was another special event when not just the wonderful work of Cdre Malcolm Williams and his team was fully detailed with over £1.4 million given in grants but also awards for courage and bravery. It is extraordinary what is achieved in the very worst conditions and with consummate skill. During Malcolm’s report he very kindly acknowledged the encouragement of the MNA to offer more help for funeral expenses. They now offer up to £300. Members requested that the MNA Executive work towards establishing wider recognition of the need and generating greater resources to meet that need. Local Council costs rose 20% last year and the cost of funerals could rise to as much as £24,000 by 2020 as reported by one bank. Interestingly the Shipwrecked Mariners Society helped over 60,000 seamen, 6,600 widows, 8,000 Orphans and 4,100 aged parents “back in the day” after WWII. The immediate assistance at that time for survivors arriving back in Britain was clothing, food, accommodation and rail passes to get home to their loved ones. Wonderful work continued to this day.

The Falklands Chapel Service of Remembrance held in June began with eight bells being rung on the Sir Galahad bell. Our thanks go to Angela Perry MBE for all her very industrious work and the excellent fundraising that continues to maintain the chapel. The Falkland Families Charity has mainly completed it’s work and has decided to close it’s doors. Much of any further need can be met by the existing charities.

The HMT Lancastria Service was held once again at St Katherine Cree in London.  This year a new window, designed by Michael Coles, was dedicated and we welcomed the Lloyds Choir who are always amazing. I also attended a Lancastria families event in Nottingham at a very well appointed Café for Sunday lunch…it was superb. People had come from all over the country and there was a great buzz about this year’s reunion. They were delighted with the way the MNA continued to raise awareness of the Lancastria and the huge loss of life.

The Merchant Navy Day Commemorative Service (MNDCS) was particularly well supported this year and the programme of events benefitted from a wider group of contributors. There are always matters that could be improved and the distribution of the wreaths would certainly be one of those matters.

The Service received wider promotion through being included on more websites such as Culture24. Trinity Square Gardens (TSG) will also now be included in the London Guide books…very strangely it was not even mentioned in the A-Z London Guidebook…it is now.  Another significant change. Congratulations must be given to Roger Hoefling for his research and input in rectifying those exemptions and for his part in the Service. Roger has a very particular skill-set and has encouraged us all to think in a different way about elements of what the MNA seeks to achieve. Roger also took a leading role in establishing contact with Islington Council for the dedication of Capt. Parslow VC stone.  Capt. Parslow was the first person from the then Mercantile Marine to be awarded a VC and at 59 was the oldest ever to receive that honour. Only two were awarded to ‘civilians’ with the second also being awarded to a Master in the Mercantile Marine…Capt. Smith VC. Capt. Smith will be honoured in 2017 in Scotland and we will look for support from our four MNA Branches in Scotland. It is also hoped our Scottish MNA Branches will be able to support the Battle of Jutland events taking place on Orkney on the 31st May next year. The MN will have a role and we have been formally invited to attend.

The MNA also continues to receive the support of Jim Fitzpatrick MP Poplar and Limehouse. Jim and his wife Sheila have always supported the MNDCS and have often made appropriate enquiries to help our campaigns. Most recently this was for recognition of MN Day as a government designated Flag Day. He wrote to John Whittingdale MP and Boris Johnson to seek recognition and that has now gone forward through the correct channels. Jim also contributed his support for a new and enlarged flag mast in TSG…here again we welcome the initiative of Roger Hoefling. We did support another initiative to remove the second mast and place it in the NE area of the Garden, however we still await the outcome of the approval for a taller and more substantial mast and its position. The changes to TSG have been substantial since our first MNDCS in 2001. These changes are not only from Tower Hamlets Council but also the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). We continue to be honoured by their efforts to raise the standards in TSG and offer our sincere thanks for their professionalism and commitment.

One setback has been the recognition of the 5,361 names of WWII merchant seafarers not yet properly commemorated. It has taken time to research, present and verify all the names but the Commission was made aware by the Registry in Cardiff that some were not suitable for further recognition and we will seek to review those names and their concerns to achieve a more favourable outcome next year. Much credit for his continued work as the MNA’s Archivist is attributed to Billy McGee…thank you Billy.

The MNA Trademark was renewed this year and you can see all the details online. It protects our name and stops any other organisation misusing or abusing that name. It also protects some of our goods and merchandise from being copied without explicit approval. It is very detailed even to the pantone of the blue we adopted for our letterhead and MNA logo.

This year we have started researching work to produce a Welfare Report and strategy document in 2016. Two of the areas highlighted will be care at home and care homes in general as they support an ever increasing ageing demographic. So far we have found;

  1. The elderly do face severe problems when needing home care, particularly cash.
  1. Almost 1 in 4 people in UK will be over 65 by 2035.  Most people want to remain in their own homes as long as possible. What can we do in our sector for all those seafarers and their families?
  2. The UK Homecare Association advises that providers already face desperate funding shortfalls. Local Authorities will also have less so the burden will increasingly fall on the voluntary sector.
  1. The National Institute for Health & Care Excellence has detailed what they expect all care workers to provide.  Branch Executive Officers will be made aware of the details. We have already issued branches with the SSAFA Home Visits guide, which is essential reading for all branch officers. This new report advises home visits should last 30 minutes and should be the same person to help build reassurance. However, Local Authorities do not have the resources.  The MNA need to continue to build a consensus throughout 2016 towards home safety visits as part of the solution. Research from America indicates that over 47% of those same ages visit hospital because they fall over at home. Is it the same for the UK? A fall at home is often the final decider for family members when considering whether elderly relatives need to go into care.  Research has also recently indicated that minor ailments like urinary tract infections can cause low blood pressure and dizziness.  Many people go to hospital because they fall when they are infected.  This could have all round benefits.
  1. Local Authorities and clinical groups commission more than 70% of home care and current funding does not cover what they are trying to do today. We must seek wider agreement of the ways to establish a programme for the maritime community in 2016.
  1. In 2014, 500,000 people used home care funded local authorities with 80% of them being for the over 65’s. Only by working together can we do more in the years ahead.

How can these concerns be managed by the voluntary sector with safety and care?

Interestingly there are 232 car drivers aged over 100 driving on the road today! It is said that many of them can live without sex but they cannot live without their glasses! By the way you know you’re “getting on a bit” when you know the difference between a gastroenterologist, oncologist and phlebotomist.

Earlier in the year Seafarers UK approached the MNA with proposals for a fund-raising and awareness campaign to raise funds for the Merchant Navy Fund. The Fund is only a couple of years old but is growing year on year. The Red Ensign awareness campaign has been huge, costing many thousands of pounds to promote but it has certainly made inroads on Local Authorities awareness especially those not previously engaged with this area of recognition. Some had probably never heard of the Merchant Navy or are certainly unaware of its significance to UK Plc. We were absolutely delighted with the initial proposals and have contributed enthusiastically throughout all the developments of the promotional activity. We have contributed at every level but Nick Harvey, Julie Behan and Bruno Peek have undertaken the bulk of the work. I am delighted to say Julie is with us here today and will be speaking later.  The Red Ensign campaign will be continued in 2016 with the addition of the 8,000 or more Parish Councils.

We do need to ask members to make every effort to support events within reach of their branch; say 20 miles. Many Local Councils had not been supporting Merchant Navy Day before but advised us they would on this occasion and possibly in the future. WE must build more relationships with more Local Authorities for even more recognition.  I attended the Dover event where we enjoyed two Services in one day.  One Service was held in the Medieval Council Hall in the town and then a second at the MN memorial on the waterfront. It was very well supported and Don Hunter and his wife Jean have built something special and have earned enduring approval and respect from the local council.  When the time comes contact other Councils outside the Dover Town area, this may bring more seafarers to support the town event. You have seen from the figures above that there are huge numbers of former seafarers still unaware of the MNA and we must look at new ways to bring more people together as members of the MNA.

Our promotion of ‘Get SeaWalking in May’ has not yet received the support that would mean more brainpower for our members and possibly a longer and healthier life.  We seek your support for this basic way of raising awareness of merchant seafarers as well as enjoying a gentle walk with friends, even if it is just round the town. Every year we promote this way of  “you getting more out of your life if not getting any life out of your friends”. We hope that we will eventually have official walks all over the UK with the blazer front and center raising awareness and perhaps additional welfare funds for your branch. We are also in talks to assess the possibility of a 1, 2 or 3 day cycling event along the coast or between ports. Any ideas, as always, are most welcome. Anybody with a Dragon boat they want to row please contact our head dragon Malcolm Mathison.

Malcolm continues to offer so much towards the efficient management and continuance of the MNA and in particular the MNDCS. Thank you so much Malcolm and enjoy your cruise later this year.  Malcolm is handing over some of his responsibilities for organising MNDCS16 to Charles Woodward, who now works for the Marine Society & Sea Cadets (MSSC). Charles has agreed to take over the invitations and help on the day.  We have already had our first committee meeting for the Service and we are putting all the necessary arrangements in place. We are delighted that the First Sea Lord (1SL) has agreed to be our Principle Guest once again. It was through his good offices that the RM Band attended this year…they are the best. We do have to wait for final confirmation nearer the day, as military exigencies will still have prior commitment, but we remain hopeful that one of the three will be available. It is a great honour and a mark of respect for our MN heroes who have fallen to have both the 1SL and the RM Band.

Tim Brant and myself have visited a company called Samlerhuset at the London Mint Office. We enjoyed their presentation of the proposals for a special issue of a set of Battle of the Atlantic coins. The best coin in the set will be made of silver and where that silver came from adds immense resonance to the whole set of coins. That £50 coin is made from silver bullion retrieved from the SS Gairsoppa.  It is a wonderful gift that has authenticity and substance as part of the ships cargo. It is a very poignant reminder of the loss of life and the war effort of the Merchant Navy for the freedoms we all now enjoy. What a gift to give both friends and family.  There will also be a limited number of Silver Ingots produced, which will be very desirable as extra special gifts. Much more on this next year when the coins are launched around May 2016. The same company recently produced a set for the Battle of Britain remembrance and the 200th anniversary of Waterloo before that event. We believe you will be impressed by the level of care and consideration they have given to this set of coins and there is much more that is being considered…very exciting and rewarding.  We achieved great results with our campaign for the Battle of the Atlantic stamps and we are hoping the Battle of the Atlantic coin collection will be even better. It will certainly raise the profile of that most significant part of our nations history.

The SeaVue Scheme has continued to gain momentum and we organised a meeting aboard HQS Wellington in January 2015 to bring together a variety of interested organisations and key personalities. You may not be aware that a significant and growing part of the UK Search and Rescue organisation (SAR) is manned entirely by volunteers. The MNABC now add to that the dynamic with the SeaVue watchkeepers at sea, on inland waterways, lakes and canals. The National Coastwatch Institution (NCI), whose mission is to assist in the preservation and protection of life at sea and along the UK coastline, is one of the fastest growing members of the SAR community.  They were at the lunch in London. Their charity is now twenty-one years old and already operates 50 lookout stations around the country manned by more than 2,000 trained volunteers.  It is entirely self-financing and receives no government financial support. They are a very professional, skilled and dedicated group of people. I will be attending a meeting in the Commonwealth Committee Room of the House of Commons in two weeks on the invitation of Air Marshall Sir Christopher Colville who is the Patron of the NCI.  Their eyes along the coast help save lives along the coast. 

When it comes to sea safety, there is simply no substitute for sharp eyes that can spot a flare from a vessel in distress, a capsized dinghy, a child swept out on an airbed, a swimmer floundering out of their depth or a fisherman on rocks who has failed to spot the advancing tide about to cut him off – all good reasons for extending the NCI safety net to stretches of our coastline currently unprotected or over the horizon.  This is now continued at sea by the SeaVue Scheme initiated by the MNA. We have agreed a revised Constitution for the MNABC and that is part of the addendum. Our Boat Club also enjoyed a busy AGM alongside the River Yare near Norwich. This strengthened our links with the Norfolk Broads organisations as they were invited to attend. A new Committee was elected on the day and they are in the process of writing a new sail-safely booklet for the under-twelves that will have MNA branding.

Interestingly, this year’s demand for UK-made sailboats is at a record level despite the challenging trading conditions in the Eurozone.  New figures show an increase in sales by 7.2% in 2014/15.  The driving force has been Britain’s dominance in the international dinghy market as detailed by the British Maritime Federation.  They have researched the market and found that 10,120 boats were built in 2014/15.  Big companies include Topper International, Laser Performance and RS Sailing, whose new Aero model has received very positive reports and recommendations. This guides our progress and more possible contributors to discussions on safety. Sir Christopher Colville, has agreed to Chair another Safety meeting at the RAF Club in the new year.  This is another step towards another step-change in safety at sea, on inland waters, rivers and lakes. The MNA propose a new UK wide safety forum that could be of substantial benefit if the work was both committed and coordinated.

Lord West, our MNA Patron, continues to do his work behind the scenes and we were delighted he could attend the MNDCS. He was the first First Sea Lord to attend and his support is invaluable. His Lordship really has been an excellent advocate for Merchant Navy seafarers and he continues to lobby for appropriate recognition for seafarers both past and present. The Warrant for the new Merchant Navy Medal has been issued but some of the wording still needs further consideration but the new medal will be in place for the 2016 presentations.  We understand the ceremony will remain in the magnificent Trinity House. I will be attending this year’s ceremony at the end of November. We thank his Lordship for all his efforts and we do appreciate all he has achieved. The MNA attended the Gallipoli, VE and VJ Day events, which received wonderful support on the streets of London and by those attending. These events were very different but brilliantly organised and there was support for our MN Vets. They took part in the Services and then were welcomed to special receptions and in the case of VJ Day the reception was in a marquee sited on the 900 year old College Garden at Westminster Abbey. We are expecting to have even greater representation at this year’s commemorations at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday than last year. Many of you will remember that in 1999 the RBL would not acknowledge the MN Vets and they would not give them official approval to march.  Well, times have changed and our contingent is now officially invited and they march proudly along with their comrades who also experienced the horror and loss in those dark days. Our members also attended events in TSG organised by the HCMM. That Service is very different to the one we organise and all the better for that as they both offer a different experience and sense of occasion.

The Royal Maritime Museum (RMG) in Greenwich, the National Archives and the Merchant Navy Association were the joint sponsors of the launch of the 1915 Crew List Project. The event took place in Greenwich aboard the Cutty Sark on Tuesday afternoon on the 30th June. The RMG very kindly credited the MNA with the contribution of our members in progressing the project. In this centenary year of the First World War, the 1915 Crew List Project sought to highlight the contribution of merchant seafarers to the war effort made by the Merchant Navy.  In 2012, in partnership with the National Archives, the RMG began an ‘e-volunteer’ project to make available online all the surviving merchant navy crew lists from 1915. 

As there were no records for individual merchant seamen from this period, these records are of international significance in highlighting the vital contribution made by the Merchant Navy during the First World War.  Using their own computers, more than 400 volunteers from around the world, in places as diverse as France, Mexico, Japan, Australia, Italy and Ireland (as well as the UK), transcribed from digital images of 39,000 lists.  After the reception aboard Cutty Sark we were invited back to RMG.  We saw some of the original crew lists from 1915, met staff and volunteers involved in the project and also saw the new search facility created as part of the project. Genuine documents from the First World War were laid out for us to hold and view. It was an extraordinary experience to hold a letter written by a lady survivor of the Lusitania…the actual letter.  There was a superb collection of material to view and discuss.  We were delighted that RMG gave the MNA a mention in their welcome address and we would be delighted to work with them again in any future projects. We also enjoyed building a stronger relationship with RMG. We will certainly include them on our guest invitations to MNDCS in 2016.

The attendance at the Annual National Seafarers’ Service (ANSS) was very good and this year we were proud to see four MN Red Ensign standards. That is a change for it is not so long ago when there were no MN Standards. That was another successful MNA campaign. The Service in St Paul’s has been going since 1905 and is now being managed by our friends in Seafarers UK.  It is a very significant annual event in the maritime calendar. The ANSS is always followed, the next day, by the Service in All Hallows by the Tower organised by the Maritime Foundation. This Service recognises all those named in the seafarers Memorial Book maintained by the Maritime Foundation. This is not just for times of conflict but mainly for the other times. The fatal accident rate at sea is 12 times that of the general British workforce…only fishermen are higher. This book will soon have the benefit of a searchable database that will serve as a very dynamic resource. If any of the names have some historical significance then links will be included. The Maritime Foundation also organise the annual Media Awards Dinner at the Institute of Directors in London. This seeks to recognise those raising the profile of merchant shipping by writing books, articles, and papers and by producing radio and TV programmes with maritime resonance. A great deal of time and effort goes towards organising this annual event and is has a very positive influence within the media firmament. If you know of anybody who could be considered as having in some contributed to the promotion of matters maritime then please contact our MNA Head Office.

That work is one element of recognition and respect and it is still growing. Another is the work of the Not Forgotten Association. They continue to invite our veterans to attend events throughout the year and the next one is to St James Palace in November. There will be more invitations later to Christmas Lunches in different parts of the country and then the Buckingham Palace Garden Party next year. Their work is really sensational and brings a range of wonderful experiences within reach for all veterans. Our Vets have been attending their special events for over 15 years and many have certainly experienced a change of scenery and much more. Infact, over 10,000 veterans benefit every year from their dedication and commitment.

We continue to maintain our firm financial foundations to support all that we seek to achieve. Our particular thanks to Willie MacFarlane who maintains our books with great care and with the clarity of the water he maintains in the Outer Hebrides with his day job. Thanks Willie.

We are fairly limited to what welfare money the MNA Charity can grant and that could be why so few of you ever ask for help…but we can help. Perhaps it is pride and not wanting to accept charity and that is sad. Quality of life is so important and ensures you remain as independent as possible for as long as possible. If that requires a little help so be it…it is better then being permanently at diss-ease with yourself and all around you.  You are not alone. We also advise that if YOU see someone who would benefit from a hand-up and not a handout then please contact Tim Brant who remains as our National Welfare Officer. Tim attended one more welfare course this year and has accumulated much knowledge and experience in directing help to the point of contact to make a positive difference.  Thank you Tim – great work as always.  You will see from the Welfare Report that we have made five grants this year from our Help the Helper Fund and we are sure there are many more who could benefit from assistance like this although it is limited to £250 per year.

The shop remains the best stocked MN shop in the world and we welcome seeing Brian Gray’s smiling face, gentle tones and amicable manner as he sets up and takes down his traveling show. Brian, Pat and Mick you make us all so proud and it is a pleasure to work alongside you all. With the new website now in place and a new online shop we hope to see an increase in online sales and that should add to the bottom line. We are still signed up to Paypal.

Membership is steady but disappointing especially when we have now researched the depth and spread of the seafaring community. This research was undertaken on request from the MNA Executive. It is interesting to compare and contrast the MNA research with the findings produced for the Maritime Charities Group. This multi-charity working group was renamed this year.  The MNA has benefitted from much of the previous research and it has guided our actions in previous years. The details below are only one element of the proposed MNA Welfare Report.  That document will be circulated for your views early next year.  The detailed research was undertaken by one of the Boston Branch members Ben Stock ably assisted by his son. Thank you so much gentlemen and we look forward to more results next year.

The results below are from a survey into potential numbers of seafarers living in UK.

MNA Membership Therefore, from 1940 to 1980, applying accepted mortality rates, we have approximately 253,000 living former or retired merchant seafarers…the youngest of these being about 51 years old.  This is far in excess of the 150,000 of the report produced for the Maritime Charities Group.

How does this now impact on welfare issues and our potential membership? There may be many more seafarers and families who need help in some way.  It is also clear that there is far greater potential for us to significantly increase our membership. That also means we are reaching out to perhaps as few as 2% of those who may need assistance now or at some future date. Further research will need to be done to estimate our catchment from 1980 to the present day. What we need to discuss in our branches and across social media technology is what may be termed ‘The MNA Offer’ to potential new members.

  • To help keep people in touch with each other whether at sea or ashore.
  • To build larger local communities of seafarers and family support groups.
  • To maintain awareness of the needs of our seafarers working today.
  • To increase recognition of our seafaring heritage and its significance today.
  • To raise further acknowledgement and support for our Merchant Navy Veterans.
  • To provide better Welfare and Wellbeing arrangements for all ages in all families.
  • To be a part of something special that has secured change and seeks to do more.

The National Council are still interested in finding a new and extraordinary person to take the role of National Secretary when Tim Brant retires at next years AGM…that will be on 29th October 2016. The National Secretary works from home and is the first point of contact for both members and external contacts.  The MNA National Secretary’s duties are:

  • To make, keep and distribute, whenever required, information and relevant documentation to members
  • To invite appropriate members to meetings, prepare Agendas for each meeting and take notes.
  • To advise and inform anyone who contacts the “MNA’s Head Office”

The MSSC are still doing great work and have an impressive body of achievements including the continuation of long life learning and Ship’s libraries as reported at their Annual Court (AGM).  I believed they quoted 168 ships as still receiving their library books.  They also provide all levels of educational courses especially for lifelong learning.  The address this year from the guest speaker, Captain Rachel Dunn, took place in the Cloth Workers’ Hall on Mincing Lane, London.  Rachel spoke of her seagoing experiences as a Master Mariner, ex Captain and now Admiralty Pilot for the Royal Naval dockyard at Portsmouth.  Rachel’s husband Neil is a Pilot at the port of Southampton and in discussion at the reception afterwards they both agreed to look towards becoming MNA members. They have the MNA bookmarks to prove I was there!

There is much to recommend this year and still more left untold and you will understand that the work progresses on a daily basis. It is still exciting to be a part of this unique Association and it continues to be an honour and a privilege to represent you on every occasion.  Thank you.

John Sail
MNA National Chairman

MNA EXECUTIVE REPORT – OCTOBER 2015 (alternative pdf file)