The Seafarers’ Charity Celebrates OBE Announcement

The Seafarers’ Charity’s former CEO, Catherine Spencer, has been awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in King Charles’ 2023 New Year Honours list for services to seafarers.

Catherine Spencer said:

‘I am honoured to accept this award. However, the real heroes of this period are undoubtedly the seafarers who kept supply lines open.  It is easy to forget that in December 2020, over 400,000 seafarers were stranded on ships waiting to be repatriated, and about as many were stranded at home eagerly waiting to join ships to earn a living.  It was a privilege to work with the exceptional team at The Seafarers’ Charity to support them.’

Catherine Spencer took on the role of Chief Executive Officer of The Seafarers’ Charity in June 2019 and was in post for less than a year before COVID-19 caused the UK to enter lockdown. While Catherine ensured that the staff team and trustees continued to function effectively from remote locations, all over the world seafarers found themselves trapped out at sea for extended contract periods and in the worst cases, without work but unable to travel home to their own country. In swift response to the crisis, The Seafarers’ Charity’s trustees released an additional £2m from the charity’s reserves to support the welfare of seafarers. This additional funding enabled maritime welfare charities to find innovative ways to respond to the increased need for support from seafarers impacted by the pandemic.

As COVID-19 continued to sweep around the globe, Catherine led The Seafarers’ Charity work with the shipping industry and leading international maritime charities to establish the Seafarers International Relief Fund (SIRF) as a central charitable Fund to respond to emergencies affecting seafarers and their families. Catherine chaired the SIRF Stakeholder Group which oversaw the raising and distribution of in excess of US$ 1.1 million in funds. In recognition of the large number of Indian and Filipino seafarers, the Fund first supported seafaring communities in India with emergency aid when COVID-19 overwhelmed local health services. It then transferred efforts to the Philippines when the COVID outbreak took hold in the country. In each country the funding provided seafarers and their families with personal protective equipment, parcels of food as well as food vouchers, emotional support, bereavement counselling, financial assistance and priority vaccinations and medication. The Seafarers International Relief Fund is now supporting seafarers and their families impacted by the humanitarian disaster caused by the crisis in Ukraine.

During her time at the helm, Catherine not only worked tirelessly for seafarers affected by the pandemic, but she also delivered on her remit to guide the 105 year old charity to achieve even more for seafarers with the launch of a new ambitious strategy which set out the charity’s new preventative approach and use of advocacy and campaigning to make a real difference to seafarers’ lives long into the future. Catherine ensured that the new strategy was accompanied with the launch of a new brand to better reflect the charity’s focus and international scope.

In July 2022, Catherine moved to a new role as Chief Executive with health care research organisation Cochrane, having seen through an intense period of activity for The Seafarers’ Charity which distributed over £10 million in grant funding to support seafarers’ welfare during a 3 year period of unprecedented crisis.

Paul Butterworth, Chair of The Seafarers’ Charity said:

‘On behalf of the General Council of trustees, I am absolutely delighted to congratulate Catherine on her OBE appointment. This is thoroughly deserved and is testament to her leadership of the charity through the most demanding of circumstances at a time when the need for international seafarer welfare support was most needed. Very many congratulations.’

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By @Cobseo 55 years ago

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