Support, retrain and retain

Funding initiative aims to keep seafarers in the industry

By Commander Graham Hockley

Never before has it been so important to support and retain our seafarers.

Over the past two years, throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, they have worked tirelessly to keep supply lines open across the globe, bringing food and medicines and other vital supplies to our shores. And they did this under extremely difficult and stressful conditions.

Now some of the very same seafarers are caught up in the conflict in Ukraine, suffering the consequences of a war that has taken thousands of lives. Once again, seafarers are stranded at sea, unable to get off their ships or be with their families. Closer to home we have seen 800 seafarers made redundant by P&O Ferries, leaving them searching for jobs in a difficult market.

So, our seafarers have had a very rough time and anything that we as the Maritime Charities Group (MCG) can do to help can only be of benefit to them and to the community at large.

They are a skilled and vital workforce which has much to offer. By keeping them employed in the maritime industries, not only will we benefit from their skills, but they can continue to follow a worthwhile and fulfilling career. We need to keep them in the industry if we can.

Our role at the MCG is to encourage collaboration across the maritime charity sector by sharing information, commissioning research, supporting the education and welfare of seafarers and their families, and promoting best practice. We believe that it’s only by working together that we can achieve the greatest impact.

In November 2020, in the early days of the pandemic, we launched the MCG Redundancy and Retraining Bursary Fund with funding from two of our members: the Merchant Navy Welfare Board and Trinity House. The Nautilus Slater Fund provided matched funding. The bursary fund, administered by the Marine Society on our behalf, provides up to £500 for training and refresher courses to UK-based merchant seafarers who have lost work due to Covid-19 and want to stay in the industry. It was due to close at the end of March this year but has now been extended to meet growing demand.

Success stories

So far, the MCG has helped more than 90 UK-based seafarers to stay in the industry by providing over £40,000 in funding for training of their choice. And over 30% of beneficiaries have already moved back into employment. The courses range from refresher training for STCW and other compulsory certificates, to training for a new skill or sector, as well as academic qualifications to broaden the skill set. We’ve had applications from seafarers across all sectors of the industry, from offshore to deep sea, from ferries and cruise ships, and at all levels. Here are just a few of our success stories:

  • Allan Dickson, 2nd Engineer, did his STCW refresher training with help from the MCG Bursary. He was out of work from the start of the pandemic but now he’s secured a contract with potential for further work.
  • Canan Sarac used the Bursary Fund to complete the courses she needed and has now been offered the job she wanted as a Mate.
  • Sam Greer put his £500 from our Covid-19 Bursary Fund towards a management course that he needed for his Chief Mate CoC. Sam’s now back in work.
  • Michael Doyle used the fund to help with his Proficiency in Medi- cal First Aid course. “I owe my new employment offshore to MCG and the funding they gave me. I wouldn’t have been able to finance my educational commitments without their help.”

This initiative has been a real success story for MCG. By working together to fund training for those seafarers who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, our members have made a real difference to their chances of getting another job in maritime.

If you or anyone you know has lost work due to the pandemic, is based in the UK and needs help towards the cost of a training or refresher course, we can help.

Commander Graham Hockley LVO RN is chairman of Maritime Charities Group. To find out more about the fund and how to apply go to; for more about MCG go to