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Maritime charities launch training fund for seafarers facing redundancy due to COVID-19

4 November 2020

The Maritime Charities Group (MCG), together with MCG members the Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB) and Trinity House, has joined forces with the Marine Society to launch a bursary fund for seafarer training. The fund is aimed at merchant seafarers who are based in the UK and are facing redundancy as a direct result of COVID-19. Applicants will be eligible for up to £500 towards training that will help them get a new job in the industry.

This ground-breaking initiative comes from an alliance of maritime welfare charities, industry and trade unions who have been working together to find solutions to the looming employment crisis and the inevitable impact on the health and welfare of merchant seafarers and their families.

Speaking about the initiative, Commander Graham Hockley LVO RN and Chair of the MCG, said: ‘The cruise and ferry sectors have been hit particularly hard by the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. We know from our trade union contacts that around 2,000 merchant seafarers are already facing redundancy and more are likely to follow. Jobs are in short supply but the market will pick up so now’s the time to invest in training and skills development.’

He continued: ‘Whether it’s a CV writing course, interview skills or a new training certificate, the maritime charities want to help. We’re making money available for training that will help merchant seafarers who’ve been made redundant due to COVID-19 to stay in the industry. It’s not meant to replace support from employers or to let them off the hook, but it will help plug the gap for those who aren’t getting that support – and it’s available now.’

Each of the charity partners has an important role to play: MNWB brings its welfare expertise; Trinity House promotes maritime careers; and the Marine Society brings extensive experience of running similar funding schemes together with providing information, advice and guidance on maritime education and training. ‘It’s a truly collaborative venture. By working together to make funds available we’re doing what we do best,’ added Commander Hockley.

Reflecting on the success of the partnership, Peter Tomlin MBE MNM, Chief Executive of MNWB, said: ‘We know from our work with maritime welfare charities that redundancy is becoming an issue and we want to do what we can to help. By contributing £10k to the fund we can help seafarers prepare for a new job in the sector and make a real difference to their future prospects. We also host the Seafarer Support website, a unique source of information from over 140 UK maritime charities. So if you and your family are struggling to cope, check out to see what help you can get.’

Trinity House is another key player, as explained by Commodore Martin Atherton OBE RN, Secretary to the Corporation: ‘Most people know us for our vital work maintaining lighthouses and other aids to navigation and safety at sea, but we also have a long-standing and important function supporting seafarers as a grant-giving charity. So contributing to this new bursary fund sits perfectly with our ethos. The aim is to enable those currently in the industry to stay in the industry if possible and prevent unnecessary hardship further down the road. We are very pleased to be a part of it.’

The bursary is aimed at UK Merchant Navy seafarers of all ranks and departments who can demonstrate a planned route back into a maritime-related role, whether seagoing or shore-side. Applicants can self-select whatever training or qualifications they feel will help them. This can include generic skills such as interview preparation or CV writing tailored to a maritime industry. Courses can include MCA-approved and STCW refresher qualifications, maritime-related professional diplomas or ICS qualifications.

The fund currently stands at £20k, with equal contributions from MNWB and Trinity House. MCG is funding the administration of the scheme which is being handled by the Marine Society. Explaining their involvement and how the scheme will work, Darrell Bate, Director of Maritime Training and Development, said: ‘We want to make the process as simple as possible for anyone applying for this new funding. All they need to do is prove that their job is being made redundant, find a course that fills a gap in their training or skills, and apply online through a dedicated page on the Marine Society website. We can also provide information about what’s out there, so if you need help with ideas just get in touch.’

The fund has already received a warm welcome and applicants are starting to come through. Mark Carden, Assistant National Secretary at the RMT, said: ‘Redundancies in the ferry sector have already hit the 1,000 mark so anything the maritime charities can do to fund retraining for merchant seafarers is incredibly welcome.’

To find out more about the MCG redundancy and retraining bursary fund and how to apply go to: