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Recognising maritime’s unsung heroes

The UK Maritime Minister shines a light on just a few people who have gone the extra (nautical) mile for the UK’s maritime sector and who will be receiving this year’s award

This year, 20 men and women will receive the Merchant Navy Medal. ‘Unsung heroes make up the fabric of our brilliant, selfless, skilled industry,’ says UK shipping minister Robert Courts

UNSEEN by most, but vital to everyone in the UK’s lives, our merchant seafarers have always played an integral part of the fabric of this country.

Aiding us every day — but especially vital during times of war or crisis — these men and women are our unsung heroes.

As an island nation up to 95% of our imports and exports move across our high seas. That is why, to remember the sacrifices of the maritime heroes of the past and to recognise the incredible achievements of seafarers today, every year we award the Merchant Navy Medal to outstanding individuals who have gone above and beyond the call of duty.

This year, I want to shine a light on just a few people who have gone the extra (nautical) mile for the UK’s maritime sector and are receiving this year’s award.

First, there is Max Bingle, the youngest ever recipient of the reward. Despite the odds being against him and his crew mates, he saved three fellow sailors out at sea.

When he received the distress call, he drove out to rescue in rough waters in pitch black. It is thanks to his quick thinking where — in line with the highest maritime traditions — he put the lives of others before his own, that they are alive today.

We recognise Fazilette Khan for her passion for the environment. If there is one thing we all have in common it is that we share one planet, one ocean and it is our shared responsibility in maintaining clean, healthy coastal environments both for today and future.

Thanks to Fazilette’s vigour, determination and creativity in designing ways for everyone to think about cleaning our beaches, picking up our litter before we leave our shores through specially nautically themed designed recycling bins, our beaches are cleaner.

We can hope that if others join her in this mission, our children might an inherit a healthier world than the one we live in.

We recognise Guy Platten, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping, for a lifetime of outstanding service to the sector.

A lifetime of never accepting the status quo, but pushing the entire sector, from lifeboat services, to cadet training, to central Government during the crew change crisis to challenge ‘how can we do things better?’

Because thousands of seafarers — key workers who kept the country supplied during the coronavirus crisis — have been caught in a sea of bureaucracy. Countries closed their borders to stop the spread of coronavirus leaving seafarers stuck at sea, unable to return home to their families and loved ones.

To ensure their swift repatriation, we worked with individuals such as Guy to hold an International Crew Change Summit with the UN — securing international agreement on how to repatriate stranded seafarers swiftly and international recognition of crew members as key workers.

Its thanks to people like Guy and our partners across the sector, that we have worked together seamlessly to achieve this change. And we will continue to push forward to bring home the 400,000 seafarers who remain stranded.

These are just three names of 20 men and women receiving the medal this year. They are just 20 of thousands more unsung heroes who make up the fabric of our brilliant, selfless, skilled industry.

An industry without whom we would not have made it through the pandemic — and for whom we will continue fighting to make sure they get the protection and recognition they deserve on the international stage.

Robert Courts MP is the UK Maritime Minister

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