Thousands stuck at sea

DefenceSynergia has been asked by 34 eminent mariners – Royal Navy and Merchant Service – to help circulate a letter they have signed rightly saluting all merchant seamen, wherever they are, on this ‘Merchant Navy Day’.


DefenceSynergia is pleased and honoured to do so.  

Thousands stuck at sea


SIR – Today is Merchant Navy Day. The annual service at the Merchant Navy Memorials, Tower Hill, and the annual national service for seafarers – administered by the charity Seafarers UK and held at St Paul’s Cathedral in mid-October – are cancelled.

When early lockdown panic-buying caused shortages, supermarkets and suppliers did their best to steady the ship, and soon most of us could again buy essential goods.

One reason that this was possible was the work of merchant ships bringing goods to our ports, every day of every week of the year. Some 95 per cent of United Kingdom trade by volume (75 per cent by value) comes and goes by ship.

Merchant seafarers are often unsung heroes in our nation’s story. More than 30,000 merchant seamen lost their lives in the Second World War (a death rate higher proportionately than that in any of the Armed Forces), their ships carrying the food, fuel, armaments and troops that were essential to victory.

The seven seas are unforgiving. Storms, hurricanes and danger are ever-present. More than 100 merchant seafarers died last year.

Early this year, cruise ships were at the centre of another storm: Covid-19. However, more than 50,000 other ships – bulk carriers, general cargo, specialist and container ships, tankers, ferries and trawlers – have continued to ply the seas. Twenty million containers are crossing the globe right now.

Of the world’s 1.6 million merchant seafarers, some 300,000 are stuck at sea, world travel restrictions having prevented routine crew changes.

For many seafarers, life is hell right now; without them, your life might be hell too. Let’s salute merchant seafarers – our essential workers at sea.

Darren Bate
Director of Maritime Training and Development, Marine Society

Lieutenant Commander Les Chapman
Senior Warden, Honourable Company of Master Mariners

Mark Dickinson
General Secretary, Nautilus International

Rear Admiral Jeremy Larken
Managing Director, OCTO

Vice Admiral John McAnally
National President, Royal Naval Association

Captain Justin Osmond
Chief Executive, Shipwrecked Mariners Society

Guy Platten
Secretary-General, International Chamber of Shipping

Captain John Sail
National Chairman, Merchant Navy Association

Commodore Bob Sanguinetti
CEO, UK Chamber of Shipping

Catherine Spencer
CEO, Seafarers UK, King George’s Fund for Sailors

Rear Admiral Bruce Williams
Editor, The Naval Review

Rear Admiral David Snelson
Chief Harbourmaster, Port of London, 2006-11

Commodore Richard Bridges
Commodore (Amphibious Warfare) 1982-84

Commodore Barry Bryant
Director-General, Seafarers UK 2002-19

Commodore Michael Clapp
Commodore, Amphibious Task Group, Falklands War 1982

Michael Everard
Prime Warden, Shipwrights’ Company, 1989-90

Commodore Jamie Miller
Naval Regional Commander, Wales and Western England 2004-17

Captain Martin Reed
Master, Honourable Company of Master Mariners 2017-18

Commodore Ronald Warwick
Commodore, Cunard Line 1990-2006

Captain Malcolm Farrow
President, The Flag Institute

Captain Malcolm Smith

Captain Gordon Wilson
Head of Defence Studies (Navy) 1987-93

Lieutenant Colonel Ewen Southby-Tailyour

Commander Giles Collighan
Hon Secretary, The Anchorites

Commander Mike Evans

Commander David Hobbs

Commander Sharkey Ward

Lieutenant Colonel Ian Berchem

Lieutenant Commander Jamie Black
Chairman, City Naval Club

Lieutenant Commander Mike Critchley

Lieutenant Commander Bob Eadie

Lieutenant Commander Lester May

Richard Shuttleworth
President, The Old Pangbournian Society

Dr Anthony Wells