10-year anniversary for Merchant Navy Fund

A fund that supports charities caring for UK Merchant Navy seafarers and their families is celebrating its ten-year anniversary this year.

The Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB) and The Seafarers’ Charity launched the Merchant Navy Fund in 2012 following an idea from MNWB’s then Chief Executive, Captain David Parsons, who felt ‘there should be a benevolent fund for the Merchant Navy to give our people a chance to support those from our own background’.

The fund recognised that some of our older seafarers faced retirement with few savings and little or no pension and younger individuals and families may need support for varied reasons, including the loss of a partner, serious illness and mental health issues.

Since its inception, the Merchant Navy Fund has received donations, legacies and corporate support totalling £720,000, with over £700k awarded in grants to support UK serving or retired MN seafarers in need and their families. All monies raised go directly to support those in most need.

The grants awarded demonstrate commitment to a diverse section of projects and include:

· Sir Gabriel Wood’s Mariners Home – to modernise 14 rooms – £12,000

· Shipwrecked Mariners – for individual welfare needs – £34,453

· Sailors Children’s Society – replacement holiday caravan for beneficiaries – £35,000

· Nautilus Welfare Fund – a ‘dementia’ friendly garden and bike hub for residents – £13,000

· Age UK Wirral – Dementia Life History and Reminiscence Project – £12,161

· Care Ashore – support Health & Wellbeing programme for residents – £10,000

· Cobhair Bharraigh SCIO – a men’s club to combat loneliness for 16 ex-seafarers – £ 4,341

· Digital Inclusion Project – three Merchant Navy residential homes received computers and training – £16,000

· Falklands Veterans Foundation – to enable a daughter of a Merchant Seaman killed during the Falklands Conflict, to visit the islands with a companion – £1,300

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Fund also awarded many grants to support most vulnerable MN seafarers affected by the Covid-19 crisis. These included:

· £7,000 grant to the Not Forgotten Association provided support to 300 former Merchant Navy personnel to improve their health and wellbeing through a dynamic and varied programme of recreational and entertainment events and activities to help prevent loneliness and isolation.

· £15,000 grant to Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society supported emergency grants to those MN seafarers and their dependents in real poverty. Help has ranged from rent and rent deposits, stair lifts, winter clothing, replacement window frames, new boilers, replacement white goods, funeral expenses and priority debts.

· 15,000 grant awarded to Sailors’ Children’s Society as part of a larger grant of £75,000 which will support children and young people from Merchant Navy families on low incomes with essentials such as school uniforms, winter coats and shoes, school trips and educational equipment. It supported approximately 205 children and young people out of the 727 they are already supporting. It is a 62% increase on the number of families they were helping pre-COVID-19.

Stuart Rivers, Chief Executive of the MNWB, said:

“The maritime sector is among those who have been hit hard by the pandemic, particularly frontline workers from the Merchant Navy and their families. So being able to support those in a time of need is imperative, and this Fund offers a lifeline for many. Over a decade, the fund has raised nearly three quarters of a million pounds which has been used in a variety of ways to boost the health and wellbeing of both serving and retired seafarers.”

The Merchant Navy Fund’s Spring Appeal will be held in April.

Fly the Red Ensign will be held on Merchant Navy Day on 3rd September.