MVS 20th Anniversary Speech by Sir Alan Massey
The MVS was delighted to be joined by the Chief Executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Vice Admiral Sir Alan Massey, KCB, CBE as our Guest of Honour at our Anniversary Dinner in Portsmouth on the 12th April.
Sir Alan spoke of the MVS with great affection and we are happy to publish the text of his speech for the record.
What a total delight and privilege to be here with you in the wonderful company of the MVS.
I am thrilled to have been invited to take part in this famous 20th anniversary dinner, and I thank you all for your typically warm and good humoured hospitality.
This truly is a famous occasion.
As most of us here recognize the MVS arose from the ashes of the much loved RN Auxiliary Service two decades ago, on 1 April 1994.
It was born on an absolute shoestring of resources, and was held together by nothing more than boundless enthusiasm, an unwavering ethos of public service, joyous camaraderie, and an unquenchable devotion to the sea and all things maritime.
As with so many wonderfully rich and fulfilling aspects of our life here in the UK, this was all down to a few visionary folk who saw an enduring value in upholding something dear to them, and something very useful to the public at large.
So these people stoically accepted the removal of government support, set up a registered charity, and constructed their own maritime service to support, assist, protect, and enhance the lives of others.
And thus the MVS and its volunteers proudly came into being.
And what exactly did this mean?
First, for the public, it meant a group of passionate and highly competent seagoers who knew their trade inside out.
And who were very happy to make their knowledge and experience available to others through a reassuring, uniformed, disciplined presence, and through advice and training in maritime skills.
Second, for the forces of law and the practitioners of good order and regulation, the MVS offered a source of specialist maritime expertise and a willing body of volunteers to patrol, deter, record and report matters of interest or concern on the water.
And third, for the volunteers themselves, this service meant an opportunity to pay something back to society, whilst enriching their own lives with further learning and training, with the stimulating companionship of like-minded souls, and with the gratifying knowledge of doing something genuinely valued and worthwhile.
And in doing so over those years, the MVS has brought some unique capabilities and attributes that have complemented, rather than duplicated, the work of other public-spirited organisations.
To take my own ‘firm’ as an example – the MCA, you all get an honourable mention in my business plan, and in most of my speeches to public audiences, because we have good cause to value very highly your contribution to safety and good order at sea.
Not least, in the way you have supported our Coastguards in responding to real-time urgency and distress situations over the years, including actual rescues on the water to save lives.
Back in 2007, for example, you were of huge help after the beaching of the container ship Napoli off the Dorset coast, when your teams helped my staff to fend off the piratical, pilfering public from the beaches, whilst also patrolling the exclusion zone at sea around the wreck by day and night.
And again the following year, you provided indispensable presence and reporting around the foundering MV Ice Prince, as her cargo of timber found its gradual way ashore onto large tracts of the South Coast.
And then, less than two years ago, the MVS enthusiastically and efficiently supported us and the other authorities once more, with safety and marshaling boats around the sailing Olympics at Weymouth and Portland, as well as on the Thames.
But of course you’re not only there for us.
Over the years you have developed close and constructive ties with harbor masters, yacht clubs, the lifeboat institution and other volunteer lifeboat companies, the National Coastwatch Institution, the police, the fire and rescue services, local resilience forums, youth groups, and with many associations and authorities linked with the sea in some important way.
I note that the MVS is constantly broadening its scope in the maritime arena.
Today you have beach supervisors amongst your volunteers and marine mammal medics.
And of course, as nothing ever stands still for long, so the MVS has adapted smartly over the years to new circumstances and challenges.
Communications is one of your strong points, and that is something that is of course always evolving very quickly and has to be kept up with.
But I guess it’s also fun, isn’t it?
Why else would people necessarily do these things for years on end?
There are some great MVS stories.
Liz Glare, now the national training manager, reminds us that some national AGMs used to be held on board P&O ferries en route to Cherbourg.
And Mike Thompson fondly recalls how he was one day innocently wandering through the naval base in MVS uniform, when he received a smart eyes right and salute from a gaggle of marching Wrens.
He enjoyed this experience so much that he ran around the building to meet them again on the next corner, hoping for a repeat – and got it!
But let me end by going back to the bottom line.
The MVS is a serious organisation with serious aims and a very important role within the wider UK maritime tapestry.
From tiny and perhaps unpromising early beginnings, it now boasts 30-something operational units and some 450 enthusiastic, dedicated volunteer members: 20 years of growth, evolution and real impact.
I would pick out just two more real highlights of those twenty years which, for me at least, sum up the standing, the gravitas and the worthiness of the MVS.
First, its formal recognition by the Royal Navy in 1998, along with Royal patronage in the shape of Prince Michael of Kent, and the granting of a unique defaced red ensign to the Service.
That trio of accolades really marked the formal acceptance of the MVS into the family of heavyweight UK maritime services.
And then just 2 years ago, the granting of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Volunteer Award in 2012 marked the formal coming-of-age of the MVS
This very prestigious award, referred to as ‘the MBE for volunteer groups’ placed your Service amongst just sixty organizations throughout the UK which have successfully harnessed the hard work, commitment and generosity of volunteers to change Britain for the better.
There is no way that I could cap that appraisal, other than to congratulate you and all of your colleagues on your huge devotion, hard work, innovation, loyalty and good humour these past 20 years.
And to say – may the next twenty be as successful, valuable and enjoyable.
Picture top: Sir Alan had a distinguished career in the Royal Navy before becoming the Chief Executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
Picture bottom: Sir Alan addresses the MVS dinner.