Blackpool sailor's medal for LGBT maritime diversity work

Published
Image source, Department for Transport
Image caption, Second Officer Paul Owen said he was "deeply humbled" by the honour

A sailor who was bullied in his early career due to his sexuality has been awarded a medal for promoting LGBT+ rights in the maritime community.

Second Officer Paul Owen is the first recipient of the Merchant Navy Medal for LGBT+ work across the maritime sector.

He was one of 16 mariners to receive the honour.

Mr Owen, from Blackpool, said his difficult experiences had inspired him to support other LGBT+ seafarers.

The Merchant Navy Medal is a state award for outstanding service and contribution to the sector and is delivered by the Department for Transport.

Through his career, Mr Owen has championed minority groups rights, particularly women and LGBT+ members.

'Deeply humbled'

While seconded to Maritime UK, he helped set up the first Pride in Maritime in May 2020 as part of the Diversity in Maritime initiative.

It now has 400 members and helps identify barriers to change in the sector and educate individuals and companies to empower and support the LGBT+ community.

The 53-year-old is due to be appointed LGBT+ Champion when he returns to the Royal Fleet Auxiliaries later this year.

"I am deeply humbled and surprised to receive this honour," Mr Owen said.

"Having suffered a degree of bullying early in my career because I identify as LGBT+ I made the conscious decision to offer support to fellow seafarers experiencing difficulties because of their sexuality."

Maritime Minister Robert Courts said he was "delighted" the second officer was rewarded for his outstanding service.

"Diversity is vital for the success of any sector and the extraordinary work [he does] on a daily basis not only makes maritime a welcoming career path for everyone but improves the lives of those already in the workforce," he said.

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