The Red Ensign flag is flying today (Tuesday 3 September 2019) over the Town Hall in Kirkwall as Orkney joins UK-wide events in recognition of the nation's merchant seafarers.
This year's commemorations will have particular resonance as 2019 marks 80 years since outbreak of World War II in which the merchant fleet had such a significant role and paid such a heavy price.
Merchant Navy Day is coordinated by the Seafarers UK charity and the Merchant Navy Association, and is aimed at raising awareness of the UK’s ongoing dependence on Merchant Navy seafarers, through public events and the hoisting of the UK Merchant Navy’s official flag on public buildings and landmark flagstaffs.
Two wreaths were laid at the kirk green War Memorial outside St Magnus Cathedral today at 11:00, by Lord Lieutenant Bill Spence and Vice Chair of the Council's Development and Infrastructure Committee, Councillor Andrew Drever
The Council's Harbourmaster and Head of Marine Services, Engineering and Transport, Brian Archibald, introduced today's proceedings and led in a short prayer and two minutes silence.
Following the commemorations, Mr Archibald said it was important to remember the sacrifices and hardships endured by merchant navy seafarers past and present in keeping vital shipping activities going through conflict and, in peace and war, through bad weather and disaster at sea.
“As an ‘island nation’ the UK relies on Merchant Navy seafarers for 95% of our imports.
"Of course in Orkney, we are extremely dependent on the sea and seafarers to enable us to go about our daily lives.
"Orkney Islands Council is a major employer of merchant seafarers, so it’s of particular importance that we play a part in commemorating those who have gone before us as well as recognising the role of seafarers today."
The UK has the largest ports industry in Europe. 75% of our exports (by volume) are shipped from UK ports. For Orkney the above figures are close to a 100% dependency on the movement of goods by sea.