BRINGING PEOPLE AND IDEAS TOGETHER
by Steven Jones, Propeller Club Liverpool
Propeller Club Lunch: April 29 2022
There is only one thing better than bringing maritime professionals together, that is doing so with a good cause in mind. So it was that the recent Propeller Club lunch at The Athenaeum in Liverpool, saw a full house of over 100 guests to hear from Captain Kevin Slade, Chair of Britannia Maritime Aid (BMA), a UK charity which aims to deliver emergency aid and ocean advocacy while also training a new generation of seafarers.
The intention is to operate a British-built and flagged merchant ship, manned by UK and Commonwealth seafarers, which will operate as a disaster relief platform and a sea-training vessel for cadets, apprentices, and non-seafaring trainees.
It will provide an effective and regular means of directly delivering UK overseas humanitarian aid and skills training on a year-round basis to UK overseas territories communities in need, and when required to provide direct, fast and cost-effective emergency response to disaster hit islands and coastal commonwealth countries.
The unique BMA ship design, specifically produced by ship design experts and consultants Leadship, is designed to handle roll-on/roll off wheeled cargo, containers and pallets and can deploy landing craft to deliver aid across a beach.
Designed around a standard RoPax hull each vessel can carry over 200 emergency personnel and offload up to 2000 tonnes of vehicular, container and palletised Aid cargo in remote areas by means of landing craft and self-supporting stern and side ramps. It is designed to have flexible accommodation for crew and 200+ persons including Cadets, Trainees and VIP’s and can support helicopter, drone and UAV operations.
Equipped with technically advanced energy-efficient machinery, the vessel is designed to be able to take advantage of future green technology development and become ever more environmentally efficient throughout its lifetime. While no decision has yet been made on fuel options, these will be not only compliant but industry leading too. A chance for the trainees onboard to work with the latest propulsion and fuel options.
The multi-role vessel design has an LOA of 135m, a Breadth of 23.4m and a Draft of 5.2m. It has a speed in excess of 18 knots and a range of more than 6000 nm. It can remain on station unsupported for 21 days.
In speaking, Captain Slade warned of the alarming decrease in both cadet quantity and sea time quality, exacerbated by current Covid restrictions on berths, crew changes and shore leave. He cited as an example that the UK requires a minimum of 1200 cadets per annum to maintain maritime expertise yet average cadet numbers in the past two years was 550, less than half that required.
The worldwide shortage of Training berths reinforces the need for the 21st Century Training ships, purpose built to not only provide cadet and other training but also to deliver Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief (HADR) to communities devastated by the increasing consequences of climate change and human conflict, as currently happening in Ukraine.
When not on HADR duties the vessel will be able to carry 100 “Eco” passengers and engage in Ocean Advocacy and research, including beach and ocean clean-ups, giving onboard trainees quality sea service – and the experience of a lifetime.
The members of the Propeller Club Liverpool were enthralled by and hugely supportive of the proposal. A number of industry connected guests promised to take this cause further, and said they were willing to make representations to the UK government to get this proposal moving forward.
There is no time to waste in ensuring that young people can access the training they need to qualify as Merchant Navy officers and crew. Regardless of the moves to use remote watchkeeping or even autonomous vessels, we will long need the skills, experience and seamanship which time onboard can deliver.
Add to that the need for humanitarian aid around the globe, and there is no time to waste in getting this concept from the drawing board onto the blocks. It is a much needed vessel, and all the concepts underpinning it make for something which is long overdue, a vessel and vision whose time is now. We need to all hammer that message home, and whether it is this Union Jack festooned version, or a range of new vessels globally, the world needs these platforms to save lives in disaster zones, and to improve lives away from them.
For more details visit the BMA website www.Britanniamaritimeaid.com
*Propeller Club Lunch: April 29 2022 Liverpool