Nautilus' Danny McGowan has been named chair of Maritime UK's newly launched LGBT+ Network.
The network seeks to raise awareness of LGBT+ matters in the maritime industry, and is part of a new Diversity in Maritime Programme launched this week.
The LGBT+ Network will work alongside Maritime UK's Women in Maritime Network and a new Mental Health Network, all of which are overseen by the Diversity in Maritime Taskforce. Network chairs will sit on the Diversity Taskforce which is co-chaired by the Union’s head of strategy, Debbie Cavaldoro.
While there are currently very few publicly available statistics about LGBT+ matters in maritime, the Union is aware of examples of LGBT+ people experiencing feelings of isolation, hate or danger as a result of their sexuality.
Nautilus is a keen supporter of and participant in Pride in London, and has seen growing numbers of LGBT+ people taking part in Union activities and talking about such matters more openly with the Union and fellow members.
In contributing to the launch of the Network, Nautilus Council member Ross Cleland said: 'When I started working in maritime I encountered derogatory terms such as "poof" and "queer" being used, making me feel extremely uncomfortable and edging me back into the closet.
'I told my colleagues that I was gay, which cut down on the remarks, but it didn't stop one person telling me that he didn't agree with homosexuality and that he felt uncomfortable having a homosexual on the crew. It upset me that my sexuality – something that doesn't affect anyone else – would cause an element of hostility towards me.
'The last anti-gay laws in the United Kingdom - sections 146(4) and 147(3) of the criminal justice and public order act 1994 - allowed shipowners to sack employees based on their sexuality and were only repealed in 2017, so we still have work to do.'
Mr McGowan said: 'Joining the maritime industry in 2015, I was unsure how matters such as diversity would be viewed. Over time, I have had my own experiences where I have seen the need for improvements – sometimes fielding probing questions about my home life that I've not wanted to share with others. I know that the industry will benefit from having a wider group discussing LGBT+ matters so that maritime and shipping professionals – at sea and ashore – can be their true selves at work.
'I hope that people will sign up to join the network so that together we can demonstrate to the world that the maritime industry is open to people of all sexualities.'
The Maritime UK diversity programme sees the establishment of networks across diversity challenge areas, including the existing Women in Maritime Network, and the two inaugural new groups, LGBT+ and Mental Health.
The Diversity in Maritime programme was set up in response to the UK Government’s Maritime 2050 strategy which includes a new Maritime Skills Commission. This cross-sector approach is expected to ensure the maritime industry has a continuous pipeline of highly skilled, diverse people across its shipping, ports, services, engineering and leisure marine industries.