Britain honours seafarers with new Merchant Navy Medal

Britain has the thirteenth largest global merchant fleet and the fifth largest in Europe. Although those rankings may depend more upon tonnage than on the number of vessels.

New Merchant Navy medal to be created and Department of Transport honours Merchant Navy Day.

Merchant seafarers who have shown distinguished service may be honoured with a new Merchant Navy Medal, Shipping Minister Stephen Hammond has announced today (3 September 2013).

Her Majesty the Queen has approved the Merchant Navy Medal, as part of the honours system.

The approval of the new medal coincides with the UK’s fourteenth Merchant Navy Day on Tuesday 3 September. The Red Ensign flag will fly over the headquarters of the Department for Transport to mark the day.

Merchant Navy Day provides an opportunity to remember the sacrifices of the seafarers of the past, to show appreciation for British shipping and to look ahead to the future of our maritime nation.

Shipping Minister Stephen Hammond said:

Our maritime success could not be achieved without the people who work in the shipping industry, and I am very pleased that there will now be an Honour specifically for merchant seafarers. On Merchant Navy Day, we remember the merchant seafarers of the past, more than 20,000 of whom lost their lives in the Second World War alone. We should never forget their efforts and the sacrifices they made, bravely crewing the ships which carried the goods which provided Britain with the means to survive.

Shipping is every bit as important to the UK today – with the vast majority of goods arriving in our country by sea. The UK maritime sector enjoys an excellent reputation, which I hope will help it go from strength to strength.

The new Merchant Navy Medal will be awarded for meritorious service by merchant seafarers.

Merchant Navy Day also celebrates the continuing role of the maritime sector in Britain’s economic well-being. Recent times have seen a revival in UK shipping, and the department welcomes the inaugural London International Shipping Week, which is taking place from 9 to 13 September. This major event will give our maritime industries an opportunity to showcase themselves to an international audience, demonstrating that the UK is a great place to do maritime business.

Captain Matthew Easton, Chairman of the Merchant Navy Medal Committee, said:

There has long been an acknowledgment amongst the maritime community that the importance of the Merchant Navy has not been recognised at a national level.

We are hugely honoured that Her Majesty the Queen has granted the Merchant Navy its own national award and in doing so reinforcing the importance of the Merchant Navy in the lives of all us, honouring the nation’s debt to the Merchant Navy in war and peace, historically, today and into the future.

The Merchant Navy Medal Committee, which has overseen the industry sponsored Merchant Navy Medal since its inception in 2005 have been involved in this process and welcome today’s announcement. We look forward to working with the National Honours Committee and Department for Transport in suggesting the criteria for the new Honour.

The existing Merchant Navy Medal is an unofficial medal. It is awarded by the Merchant Navy Medal Fund, which was set up in 2005 as a result of a charitable initiative. The new medal will be a State Award with a place in the Order of Wear. Her Majesty the Queen recently gave her approval to a recommendation by the Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals (the HD Committee) for the introduction of the new medal.

Captain Matthew Easton is the Chairman of the Merchant Navy Medal Fund, and Admiral the Lord West of Spithead is its Patron.

The Red Ensign is the official flag of the commercial shipping fleet of the UK and its Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories. September 3 was chosen as the date to recognise the service of the merchant fleet as it is the anniversary of the sinking of the SS Athenia, the first British merchant vessel lost during World War II.

The UK registered trading fleet increased from 5.03 to 16.64 million gross tons between 2002 and 2012, an increase of over 230% over the decade. The UK has the thirteenth largest merchant fleet in the world and the fifth largest in Europe.

The increase in tonnage on the UK shipping register has been achieved without compromising quality standards. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has appointed dedicated customer account managers to assist with enquiries throughout the registration process. This – and removing excess regulation – has made the UK flag more attractive.

London International Shipping Week is an industry-led event bringing the world of shipping together. This inaugural event will focus on London’s vital role in global shipping and the promotion of the UK maritime sector (ports, shipping and London maritime business services – ship broking, maritime insurance, ship finance, maritime lawyers and arbitration services).

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