History was made at this year's Merchant Navy Medal ceremony with the first ever likeness of His Majesty King Charles III adorning a medal of state.
Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal once again presented the prestigious award following last year's absence due to a tour of the Falklands. Eligibility for the Medal is limited to those who have served, or are serving, in the Merchant Navy or Fishing Fleets of the United Kingdom, Isle of Man, Channel Islands and the British Overseas Territories who have shown exemplary service.
Held at Trinity House on 10 November, 11 medals were presented to seafarers for outstanding work in the fields of mental health, STEM learning and maritime education, maritime safety, and rescue at sea, among others.
In a speech Princess Anne acknowledged the important role seafarers play in society: 'It's only right and proper that seafarers are recognised for the vital work that they do. We know that frequently that it is in difficult and dangerous conditions. Understanding that underlying risk is something everybody must do.
'We know that seafarers are the lifeblood of our maritime sector. But it's not just while at sea, but also when you return to shore, you can inspire and lead the next generation of seafarers.'
The Merchant Navy Medal is managed by the Department for Transport. The Rt Honourable Mark Harper, Secretary of State for Transport, attended for the first time in the role. In a speech following the medals presentation he referenced the June 2023 Seafarers Wages Act, passed in the wake of the P&O Ferries jobs massacre, and said the government would 'continue to close the gap in rights and protections that workers on shore enjoy, but many at sea lack'.
At the close of the ceremony cadets from Warsash Maritime School collected the Red Ensign and, following a string quartet version of the National Anthem, guests enjoyed refreshments and a chance to speak with the princess in the Court Room.
The 2023 Awardees:
- Dr Alan Stephen Bury, for services to supporting mental health in seafarers
- Captain Philip Cave, for services to sea cadets and maritime safety
- Mr Allan Dickson, for services to the promotion of STEM learning
- Mr Martin Andrew Etwell, for services to the Royal Fleet Auxiliary
- Captain Peter John Lloyd, for services to maritime education
- Mr Donnacha O’Driscoll, for services to supporting the cruise sector throughout the pandemic
- Captain William John Pearn, for services to maritime safety and pilotage
- Mr Raymond Strachan, for services to rescue at sea
- Ms Kathleen Womersley, for services to education, diversity and training
- Captain Charles Woodward, for services to the Merchant Navy Association