Shipping welfare charities have joined forces to support nearly 800 UK P&O Ferries workers sacked in March to save money.

Help is being offered to keep seafarers in the industry through the Maritime Charities Group (MCG) Redundancy and Retraining Bursary.

And The Seafarers’ Charity UK Maritime Anchor Fund provides financial help, relationship counselling, and mental health and well-being support.

So far, the funds have helped 138 seafarers with more than £66,000 ($81,000) in aid.

Commander Graham Hockley, chairman of MCG, said both these initiatives have been a real success.

“Together, we have enabled so many seafarers who have lost work, including those made redundant by P&O Ferries, to get back on their feet,” he said. “This is an excellent example of what the maritime welfare charity sector can do when it pulls together.”

The MCG fund was set up in November 2020 in response to the growing number of seafarers losing work due to Covid-19 and has now helped 100 seafarers.

The fund is backed by the Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB) and Trinity House, with additional support from the Nautilus Slater Fund.

It provides up to £500 for training and refresher courses to UK-based seafarers and was due to close at the end of March this year, but stayed open to meet growing demand.

The UK Maritime Anchor Fund was created in 2020 to provide support for crew members experiencing financial hardship due to loss of work or disruption of employment.

Many already helped

Deborah Layde, chief executive designate at The Seafarers’ Charity, said: “Hundreds of seafarers have been hit by sudden changes at P&O Ferries. Many will be adversely affected and need support, perhaps for the very first time.

“The Anchor Fund can help with family or relationship counselling, signposting to welfare services and access to grants to cover increased welfare needs,” she said. “Many ex-P&O Ferries seafarers have been helped by the fund and we just want to make sure that others in the same position know it’s there for them too.”

The charities provided the example of one unnamed female crew member sacked by P&O after 30 years.

She had been living off her redundancy pay and had only £300 left in her savings.

But a grant of £1,200 from the Anchor Fund gave her enough money to live on until she received benefits payments and retraining to teach inland waterways water sports.

World turned upside down

Another female seafarer joined P&O Ferries in 2021 as an engineering officer but was also made redundant in March.

She said: “For a few weeks after the announcement, I was really very lost. I felt like my world had been turned upside down as I’d really loved working on the ship but was and am still very upset about how my colleagues and I had been treated.”

The officer decided she did not want to return to sea.

A LinkedIn connection reminded her of the MCG fund and she applied to cover the costs of an APM Project Management Qualification exam.

She is now being considered for her “dream role”.