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United Kingdom

2020 Merchant Navy Medal heroes honoured

13 November 2020

Warm congratulations are in order for eight Nautilus members who have been recognised with British shipping's highest honour, the 2020 Merchant Navy Medal, a State award for meritorious service in maritime.

The prestigious accolade is awarded for services to maritime education, safety, mentoring, diversity and for heroism at sea.

Recognising excellence

Among this year's winners was third officer Max Bingle, who was recognised for saving people's lives at sea.

At 24 years old he is the youngest ever recipient.

Mr Bingle saved three men on a sinking boat. He responded to their distress call in pitch black, rough waters, despite his own boat becoming endangered during the rescue mission.

He said: 'This recognition is completely out of the blue. Everybody on board acted in the highest maritime tradition by going to the aid of fellow sailors in peril on the sea. Saving lives is what we are trained to do as seafarers, and I'm grateful.'

MFB Solicitors partner and master mariner Helen Peter-Davies was recognised for services to women in maritime.

Helene Peter-Davies, left, at a meeting with Nautilus Council member Jessica Tyson (who received a Merchant Nav Medal in 2019)

She said: 'It is an honour to be recognised by the industry in this way, and particularly special that the award acknowledges my work in promoting diversity and equality within maritime.'

In 2019 Ms Peter-Davies was presented with the Union's prestigious Victoria Drummond Award in recognition of her mentoring work with nautical cadets and executives working in the maritime sector.

In 2019 Ms Peter-Davies was presented with the Union's prestigious Victoria Drummond Award in recognition of her mentoring work with nautical cadets and executives working in the maritime sector.

Neil Atkinson, head of campus at Fleetwood Nautical College, received an award for services to maritime education.

Head of campus at Fleetwood Nautical College Neil Atkinson

Mr Atkinson commented: 'I am absolutely delighted to receive the award.

'What makes it even more special is receiving it for something which is so important to me, and the rest of the team at Fleetwood, whilst being head of the campus where I started my maritime education 30 years ago.

'In a year where the maritime industry has been vital to this country, the education of the next generation of seafarers could not be more important.'

Mr Atkinson first arrived at Fleetwood Nautical Campus as a student in 1989, studying an evening class, before moving onto a cadetship that laid the basis for his career.

Former deepsea pilot and vice-chair at UKMPA Captain Kevin Vallance and author of The Pilot Manual, and other books and articles on ladder safety, was recognised for his services to maritime safety.

Captain Jonathan Warren, an L3 Assessor and senior tutor maritime at the Liverpool John Moores University School of Maritime and Mechanical Engineering was recognised for his services to maritime education.

He said: 'I am very honoured and humbled to have been nominated and to have been awarded this medal over the many others who were also nominated. Many of my students, past and present, have come forward to congratulate me.

'I would like to thank them, the educational institutions, my friends and colleagues for giving me the opportunity to be of service to the MN over these last few years.'

Former Falkland Islands' Marine Officer and Harbour Master Christopher Locke was awarded the Merchant Navy Medal for services to ports and seafarer welfare. Key to his work was the formation of the Falkland Islands Maritime Authority and the registration of the British Antarctic Survey's new vessel, Sir David Attenborough.

Captain Chris Locke

Captain Locke, who is in the sixth week of retirement from his Falklands role, also brought the Red Ensign Group Conference to the Falkland Islands which he co-chaired. He said: 'It came as a total surprise when I learnt that I had been nominated as a recipient of the Merchant Navy Medal. It is both humbling and an honour to receive the award.

'The sea and working in the marine environment has been my life. After coming ashore, it seemed a natural progression to work to make a difference to help those who worked at sea. I am very grateful to everybody who has supported me in over the years but in particular to my wife Nancy.'

International Chamber of Shipping CEO Guy Platten was recognised for services to the maritime sector, including life-saving projects and most recently, his efforts in supporting the government to resolve the crew change crisis during the coronavirus pandemic.

Captain Nicholas Spencer, a retired member and chief volunteer officer for the Maritime Volunteer Service (MVS) since 2018, was also recognised for his services to the Merchant Navy. His 40-year career at sea included being a ferry master (much of the time on challenging Irish Sea routes), a ferry company superintendent and a Mostyn pilot.


L to R: Rear Admiral Andy Kyte, assistant chief of the defence staff (logistic operations), Captain Nick Spencer chief volunteer officer MVS and MVS chair David Hughes at an MVS event in 2019 at All Hallows London. Image:Bigger Picture Agency

The MVS trains its members – many of whom have no previous connection with the sea – in nautical skills, raises awareness of all things maritime among the public, and supports port authorities by providing safety patrols.

Chair of council of the MVS David Hughes said: 'We are incredibly lucky to have Nick as our CVO and we are exceptionally proud of his attainment of the Merchant Navy Medal. He is an example to us all and a credit to the MVS, the Merchant Navy and himself.'

Ministerial support

Maritime Minister Robert Courts said: 'I am delighted to announce the recipients of this year's Merchant Navy Medal. They have all gone beyond the call of duty to provide an invaluable service to our sector and our country.'

GreenSeas Trust founder Fazilette Khan was recognised for services to the marine environment. Ms Khan began her career as a Radio Officer in 1984 and set up the marine environmental charity GreenSeas Trust in memory of her mother Haida Khan as she saw an increase of litter around the coast. The charity has overseen the successful BinForGreenSeas campaign, which placed nautical-themed recycling bins in every coastal town in the UK.

Ms Khan said: 'It is an honour to be presented with such a prestigious award. We all hear about the Great Garbage Patch in the news – well I have sailed through it. I have witnessed first-hand the ship ploughing through huge islands of flotsam and jetsam. It was really heart-wrenching to see the destruction of this pristine environment happening before my very own eyes.'

Captain Derrick Kemp, a cruiseship speaker with over 50 years at sea, who has regularly entertained and educated Nautilus Mariners' Park residents with his presentations, was awarded the medal for his services to maritime careers and training.

In 2018 Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson was awarded the Merchant Navy Medal for service in recognition of his work on seafarer employment, training and welfare.

The fifth annual awards were announced on 12 November on the Department for Transport website. Recipients have been told this year's usual winter award ceremony will be delayed until Summer 2021 with details to be confirmed in December 2020. Nominations for the 2021 awards are also now open.


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