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Red Ensign on Moorish Castle to honour merchant seafarers

Photo by Johnny Bugeja

The Red Ensign will be projected onto Moorish Castle on Thursday to mark Merchant Navy Day, honouring the role played by modern-day merchant seafarers.

The flag, affectionately known as ‘the Red Duster’, will also fly over official buildings including The Convent, No.6 Convent Place, The Tower at HM Naval Base, the Gibraltar Parliament, City Hall and the Gibraltar Port Authority, as well as in private sites such as GibDock.

The role of seafarers has been brought into sharp relief by the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Seafarers UK Chief Executive Officer Catherine Spencer said: “Despite the wide-ranging impacts of Covid-19, seafarers have been keeping the UK supplied with food, fuel, medicines and other essential goods. More than 90% of our imports come by ship.”

“But despite being recognised by some governments as key workers, seafarers are prevented from disembarking in most ports on global trade routes, which means they are effectively permanently ‘quarantined’ on board vessels.”

“Hundreds of thousands of seafarers have been compelled to continue working for many months after their contracts were completed, as replacement crews are unable to leave their home countries to start work in ships all around the world.”

In Gibraltar, the Gibraltar Seafarers’ Welfare Board issued a message to seafarers on ships currently in Gibraltar or in British Gibraltar territorial waters.

“The Gibraltar Seafarers’ Welfare Board due to Covid-19 are unable to visit you on board and attend to your special needs,” the statement said.

“You can rest assured that you and your families are in our thoughts and prayers.”

The Port of Gibraltar has been recognised internationally for its willingness to accommodate ship calls and crew transfers during the Covid-19 lockdown earlier this year, at a time when most ports were closed to vessels and companies were struggling to get seafarers home.

The date September 3 recalls the first major British maritime casualty of World War II, when the merchant vessel SS Athenia was torpedoed just a few hours after hostilities were declared, with the loss of 128 passengers and crew.