I am pleased to report on the Company activities and events involving its membership in the year ending at the Annual General Meeting 2013.
Our membership is down 2 from the 240 number reported last year. Nationally we have 231 members, which is comprised of 211 ordinary members, 10 life members, 8 honorary members and 2 associate members.
In addition we have 7 associates of the branch making a grand total of 238.
Efforts are constantly being made to raise these numbers. Holders of Masters qualifications must firstly be identified and then encouraged to take up membership. Strategies must be devised whereby the profile of the Company is raised in such a way that non member Master Mariners see value in joining the Company. From a cursory glance at the Wellington Branch it is obvious that most are retired and the average age would be in the late sixties to the mid seventies. I fully expect that this demographic would be similar in other branches. If we are not to fade away to final extinction we must inspire regeneration by attracting new younger members preferably from those who are actually following an active career at sea.
During the course of the year and as a result of a remit put forward at last year’s Annual General Meeting of the Company, your Executive Council has been conducting a review of the Rules. This became necessary as some changes voted in at the 2012 meeting made some wording of other rules incorrect as well as not properly spelling out the rights of the new category of membership. In addition, with their proximity to the NZ naval base, the Auckland Branch have been keen to formally write into the Rules the admission of suitably qualified naval officers. This measure does of course fit in with the desire to increase our numbers. With other developments that have taken place since the last review of the Rules in 1997 other matters, albeit less important, required attention.
The unpaid professional input of the Auckland Branch Honorary Solicitor to this work, has been much appreciated.
Thanks to the care and attention of our Secretary/Treasurer, Cor van Kesteren, we have survived another year. The levy, which is raised on membership numbers and provides the money necessary to run the national office function of the Company, has notably, not been raised for at least the last eight years. This has been achieved by various means of cost cutting and a frugal approach to meeting other inevitable charges. Amongst other incidental things, the levy pays for the expenses of wardens from out-ports attending the AGM, and an honorarium for the secretary/treasurer. Historically the levy has been separate from the costs of the production of “On Deck” though at the time of raising the invoice to branch secretaries, it has been combined with the money required to print the magazine.
Formal Ceremonies and other Representation
On 3rd September 2012, I along with other members of the Wellington Branch attended the National Commemorative Ceremony at the National War Memorial, which marked Merchant Navy Day. I was pleased to lay a wreath on behalf of The New Zealand Company of Master Mariners. It is expected that this honour will now become an annual responsibility.
On 24th May 2013 the Company was well represented at a wreath laying ceremony, again held at the National War Memorial, marking the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic. A light lunch was served at Parliament after the event.
On the 20th June 2013 Captains Jaap de Jong and Frankland travelled from Auckland to attend a patronage reception held at Government House, Wellington. This function was hosted by our Patron, the Governor-General. From a subsequent report I understand that both Jaap and John enjoyed the occasion but not the Wellington gale that disrupted all air travel about that time.
In early December I was invited to attend a day of the NZ Maritime Pilots Association’s Conference that took place in Wellington. Most of the attendees were active pilots or harbour-masters and the speakers were excellent. The occasion provided an opportunity to network with some of the commercial companies invited to the conference to exhibit some of the latest marine technology.
On behalf of the Company I must take this opportunity to offer our congratulations to Auckland Warden, Captain Ted Ewbank, on his appointment as President of the New Zealand Division of the Royal Institute of Naval Architects.
As you are aware, two editions of the Company’s magazine have been printed this year. On behalf of all members and myself I give sincere thanks to Captain Nic Campbell for all the time and effort he has put into their production. Without Nic’s determination and energy, particularly given that he doesn’t enjoy the best of health, the magazine would not exist in its present form.
Nic has expanded “On Deck” to being well beyond just another maritime newsletter to that of being a publication that people, other than mariners, enjoy reading. It provides articles of historical interest and a platform for Company members, particularly those still at sea, to report and give account of life and conditions aboard modern vessels. Importantly, it also assists in raising the image of the Company and illustrates the fact that we are not content to be a gathering of aging seafarers, wallowing in the past.
The continued publication and distribution of the magazine will be greatly helped by income derived from advertisements. In this respect I thank those branches that have taken the time and been successful in their efforts to find advertisers.
In accordance with a decision reached at last years Annual General Meeting, on behalf of the Company I wrote to the Minister of Transport giving our opinion that New Zealand should become a signatory to the ILO Maritime Labour Convention – 2006 which comes into force next week on the 20th August.
In summary this piece of international legislation means that all seafarers, regardless of their nationality, or the flag of the vessel on which they serve, should be able to enjoy comprehensive protection of their fundamental rights.
Unfortunately apart from an unsigned letter written by the Minister’s Private Secretary that simply acknowledged receipt of our letter, to date no action appears to have been taken.
The New Zealand Government appears to see this issue as not being an important matter in its list of priorities and I very much regret that our views appear not to carry much weight in the world of politics. That is not to say that we shall not continue trying to gain the recognition that the Company and its opinions certainly deserve in the maritime world.
However, on a more positive note, the Director/Chief Executive of Maritime New Zealand advised us that MNZ is very appreciative of the offer made by some of our members to assist them on occasions where such voluntary experience and expertise could be of value to his organization.
Again this outcome was as a result of an initiative put forward at last years Annual General Meeting and, importantly, aids in our objective of declaring both what the New Zealand Company of Master Mariners is – and what it stands for.
Kenneth D Watt