Posted on: 12 January 2021
The work of Maritime London Officer Cadet Scholarship (MLOCS), a charity providing funds to enable young people to undertake training required to become a Merchant Navy officer, continues in spite of the Covid pandemic albeit inevitably affected by it. MLOCS Chairman Tony Vlasto says: “Properly qualified officers are ever more vital for our crucial maritime based trade in the difficult times in which we are now living. With the generous support of our sponsors and general donors, we are currently supporting six cadets through their shore-based training and sea time phases, with an additional cadet possibly starting this January.
Since early 2019, the MLOCS Board has been refreshed with the appointment of two new Trustees: Tim Howse, Vice President, Legal and Corporate Affairs – Industry Liaison at Gard and Louise Hall, Director – Loss Prevention/ Corporate Responsibility at The Shipowners’ Club. Both have seafaring experience (indeed Tim was the scheme’s first cadet in 1992) and now hold senior positions in the marine insurance (P&I) sector, which shows how the wider maritime industry can benefit from well-qualified seafarers when they come ashore.
“Through Chiltern Maritime we are monitoring, mentoring and guiding the cadets through their training and the considerable difficulties created by the pandemic,” continues Vlasto. “This involves re-scheduling as necessary of training phases; considering alternatives to sea time; minimizing the effects of travel restrictions; and liaising closely with Government, the MCA, the MNTB – all with a view to avoiding delays in completion of and adequate training. Chiltern have also run a course on mental health awareness and ensure there is continuous communication with cadets to monitor their mental health and keep them motivated.”
The following extract from the Phase 2 report from a current cadet after their first sea time service is encouraging to say the least:
“As lockdown measures were beginning to increase and with the pandemic showing no signs of slowing down, many crew members elected to get off to be with their families. The ship understandably cannot stop its work because of the vital function it plays in international trade, and to the [UK] economy. As such, we were designated essential workers by the [UK] Government and over the next few months, with reduced crew, the cadets that remained onboard were relied upon heavily.
“While it was certainly a challenge at points, it provided a fantastic opportunity to take on responsibilities that a cadet would normally never be entrusted with. Leading watches, preparing passage plans unaided, acting as helmsman and earning my steering ticket, leading drills, and bringing in and repairing buoys with the remaining crew, amongst other things allowed me to progress my training immensely. It became apparent just how far I had come in June, with new crew starting to come on again, and me now responsible for some of their training.
“Thanks to the camaraderie and friendship that we formed during those tough times I ended my trip feeling like a fully fledged member of the ships team and was treated as such by the other officers and crew. While definitely not a conventional sea phase it’s hard to imagine anywhere else that would have allowed me to learn so much in a short space of time, and progress so rapidly. All the while enjoying myself immensely. I am incredibly thankful to the vessel owners and to MLOCS and my sponsor company for their continued support in my cadetship.”
Vlasto says in conclusion: “Our work can only continue if sponsors and general donors remain willing to give their support. We ask unashamedly that they should do so and contact us through Maritime London. Our current Trustees and details of our generous sponsors and general donors since 2016 – to all of whom we say THANK YOU – can be seen here.”