A Maritime Charities Group (MCG) Covid-19 Redundancy and Retraining Bursary Fund – supported in part by the Nautilus Slater Fund – has been a success in helping seafarers who were impacted by the pandemic get back to work.
An MCG report on the fund shows that of 105 seafarers who were granted a bursary to help with the cost of retraining after losing work due to Covid-19, more than half of them (55%) secured another job in maritime as a result.
Launched in November 2020 at the height of the pandemic, the MCG bursary fund offered support to UK-based seafarers who had been made redundant or lost a contract and needed help towards the cost of training to stay in the industry. The scheme was funded by the Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB), Trinity House and the Nautilus Slater Fund, and administered by the Marine Society on their behalf. It closed to applicants on 16 September 2022.
In just under two years, the MCG bursary fund awarded almost £48,000 to seafarers from all parts of the industry, with the highest number from the offshore sector (28%), followed by ferries (23%) and deep sea (22%). The remainder were mostly in the cruise or yachts sector. More officers (49%) than ratings (33%) applied, and only 18% were engineering officers. Most applicants (93%) were male, with only seven applications from female seafarers despite targeted campaigns at women maritime professionals, ratings and those from the ferry sector where take-up was low.
The courses they applied for were varied: half of all applicants needed funding to refresh their STCW qualifications, and about a third wanted to upskill their at-sea qualifications or gain jobs in a different sector of the industry such as offshore wind and renewables. The age of applicants was fairly evenly spread with just over a quarter aged 25-34 and around a third aged 35-44, while 17% were aged 55 or over and 10% were under 25.
Nautilus International executive officer Martyn Gray said: 'The Redundancy and Retraining fund offered support at a time of great uncertainty by facilitating the reskilling of those severely impacted by Covid and latterly by P&O Ferries' decision to terminate the employment of 786 seafarers. The fund kept more than a hundred seafarers available for work over a period of almost two years. It's a shining example of swift cooperation delivering meaningful benefits for maritime professionals.'
Feedback from seafarers who benefited from the fund has been overwhelmingly positive.
One successful applicant, a second engineer, said it also highlighted the need for more such support for seafarer training. He put the money towards four STCW refresher courses, which enabled him to take on a new contract. 'I have now completed my STCW refresher training that the Covid 19 bursary helped to fund. As a result of renewing my certificates, I secured a 6-week contract with the Northern Lighthouse Board with the potential of further work.'
An able seafarer who received a bursary to help fund an AEC 1 course managed to gain work as a deckhand on a crew transfer vessel: 'The bursary was a significant factor in being able to attend the course, without which it is difficult to obtain employment on workboats. I am extremely grateful for the funding I received.'
Another grateful recipient, a first officer, was able to secure a part-time contract with Condor following an updated proficiency in medical care course.
- read the full report of the MCG Redundancy and Retraining Bursary Fund