The Maritime Charities Group (MCG) has announced that Tim Slingsby, Director of Skills and Education at Lloyd’s Register Foundation (LRF) will be its new Chair following the retirement of Commander Graham Hockley LVO RN.
Speaking about his appointment, Tim Slingsby said: “I am truly delighted to be taking on this new role and am grateful to my fellow MCG members for all their support. As an alliance of ten major seafaring charities supporting seafarers in all sectors, from the armed forces, the merchant navy and the fishing fleet, MCG has a critically important role to play.”
He continued: “Over the past four years, under Graham’s skilful and steady leadership we really have become the collaborative force for good that we want to be – and now is the time to build on that. With the knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm of every single member, I want to enable MCG to become much more than the sum of its parts, providing a voice for all seafarers. And with the weight of the Foundation behind me we will have access to networks, to evidence, to expertise and to two and a half centuries of heritage that will enable us to strengthen our reach and our influence.”
MCG was established in 2003 to foster collaboration across the maritime charity sector to achieve the greatest impact for seafarers and their families. Its members include seafaring charities operating across all sectors and both within and outside the UK. Recent initiatives include: the Covid-19 Redundancy and Retraining Bursary Fund which provided 105 UK-based seafarers who’d lost work due to Covid with help towards the cost of training to stay in maritime; the Mental Health Awareness Training Standard which was developed in collaboration with training providers, academics and others for use in commissioning training for seafarers and is being widely used; and an extremely successful conference in September 2022 to help set the MCG’s agenda for the next two years.
Priorities include supporting the sector to embrace and promote Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I), developing a map of need to identify who’s using its services and where the gaps are, and assessing the future of effective caseworking and how to make sure it’s accessible to all those who need it.
Reflecting on his time at MCG, Cdr Hockley said: “I’ve been with MCG since 2009, first for Trinity House and then as Chair, so I know it well. It originated as a small working group of the Merchant Navy Welfare Board and is now an independent organisation with administrative support provided by the Nautilus Welfare Fund. It has also expanded to become truly maritime with new members joining us from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines and international players such as LRF and the TK Foundation.
“When Barry Bryant from Seafarers UK retired in mid-2019 I became the Chair – that’s nearly four years ago and we are now on the other side of a pandemic. Little did we know back then what was about to happen and how it would impact on the seafaring community. My tenure started with our 2019 conference, where we focused on the updated research report into seafarer demographics and other issues on our agenda such as caseworking. But it was all change in Spring 2020: we went into lockdown and the rest is history.”
The Covid-19 pandemic hit everyone hard, but seafarers were particularly affected with thousands stranded at sea, many losing their jobs and others working well beyond their contracts to deliver vital supplies across the world. Public attention was drawn to the plight of seafarers, and the maritime charities pulled together to respond.
“That’s where we came into our own,” said Cdr Hockley. “We went from meeting three or four times a year to meeting weekly, then fortnightly, then monthly. We met online for the first time and were heavily engaged with other maritime welfare charities, helping to co-ordinate activity. Collaboration was vital. It really grew and developed during this time and has continued.
“I’m extremely positive about what I’m handing over. We’ve made really good progress in the last three or four years, especially on collaboration and diverse thinking. In my time as Chair we’ve had many changes around the table including more women in senior roles which has brought new energy and new ideas.”
Welcoming the new Chair, he said: “It’s time for new, younger blood and Tim will be brilliant. I know he will continue to champion these issues and take the MCG onto the next level. He comes from a background of working with research organisations and that will be invaluable. He’ll bring new vigour to the role with new contacts and a totally independent perspective.”