THE boss of Isle of Wight ferry operator Red Funnel has been awarded a top honour reserved for exemplary service in the UK’s Merchant Navy.
Chief executive Captain Fran Collins has earned the Merchant Navy Medal for Meritorious Service, the Department for Transport announced.
The honour goes to people who are serving or have served in the Merchant Navy and fishing fleets of the UK, Isle of Man or Channel Islands, for exemplary services and devotion to duty. It recognises those who have set an outstanding example and made contributions in the areas of maritime safety, training, efficiency, welfare, and saving lives at sea.
This year’s medals are going to 19 mariners and the announcement coincided with Merchant Navy Day, which celebrates the contribution made by Merchant Navy seafarers.
Fran Collins started her career as a dual cadet and sailed on deep-sea oil and gas tankers before going on to become the first female captain for Channel Islands operator Condor Ferries.
She moved ashore in 2008 and was subsequently promoted to executive director of operations, responsible for ensuring service delivery to Channel Island communities, before becoming chief executive of Red Funnel in June 2018.
Capt Collins said: “It is a great honour to receive the news about the Merchant Navy Medal award, and on a day that celebrates the collective contribution that men and women have made, and continue to make, in British seafaring. I am particularly passionate about supporting and encouraging new generations into the maritime sector and to raise awareness of something that is so much a part of our nation’s heritage.”
Capt Collins is committed to diversity in shipping and making a seagoing career more attractive and accessible.
When she first went to sea in 1993, around three per cent of the world’s shipping workforce was female. Twenty-five years later, the figure has barely changed and the overall number of entrants into the industry has declined, despite improvements in legislation and working conditions.
Capt Collins said: “I’m keen to encourage more people, especially women, into the industry. There hasn’t been much progression in the perception of the Merchant Navy as a career choice since I started which is disappointing given the fantastic opportunities available.
“At Red Funnel, we sponsor people into the industry across all levels of engineering, navigation and hospitality to help counter the decline in numbers of seafarers in the UK, and to ensure that more people are aware of what the Merchant Navy can offer in terms of a career – especially given that most imports into the UK are made through sea-shipping.
“I’ve been privileged to enjoy an incredibly rewarding career, both ashore and afloat, and am grateful to have amassed a wide variety of skills and experiences that could only come from being in this exciting and ever-changing sector – one that I hope I can encourage more young people to be a part of.”