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THE NAUTICAL Institute celebrated its 50th anniversary in Darling Harbour on Thursday night onboard James Craig, a restored 19th century barque.

The global body for maritime professionals at sea and ashore, The Nautical Institute was established in 1972 and is represented by more than 50 branches worldwide.  

Christopher Rynd, chairman of The Nautical Institute SE Australia branch, welcomed guests and sponsors to the occasion and reflected on the organisation’s history.

“We look back on those founding members of ours who, 50 years ago, set up … an organisation that was non-partisan, but worked for professionalism only,” Mr Rynd said.

He recalled the coalition’s “encouraging” announcement on Wednesday that it would increase Australia’s maritime capability if re-elected.

“The need for this has certainly been highlighted by the pandemic and certain weather and environmental events,” Mr Rynd said.

Addressing guests, Jillian Carson-Jackson, president of The Nautical Institute, said the announcement of bi-partisan support presented a significant opportunity for the industry.

She reinforced the importance of maritime in Australia, and encouraged guests to consider the opportunities the industry has to diversify its workforce.

“Australia is a maritime nation,” she said. “Look around [at] all the domestic commercial vessels and all the seafarers we have – we have a rich maritime heritage, both the past and the future.”

The first female president of The Nautical Institute, Ms Carson-Jackson said she has had the honour of supporting diversity, equity and inclusion in the industry.

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She said that, when she entered into the industry 40 years ago, 2% of seafarers were women. A recent report from the ICS suggests the figure has remained stagnant: this year, 2% of seafarers are women.

She said change should apply not only to the gender gap, but to broader diversity and inclusion in the industry.

“The other thing I’ve been really happy to be able to do is to address one of my passions, and that is the digitalisation of the maritime environment,” Ms Carson-Jackson said.

“We have this opportunity through digitisation to make such a difference in the lives of seafarers and also to support that diversity going forward.”

She said The Nautical Institute had set up an autonomous technology advisory group, chaired by Port of Newcastle pilot Ricky Rouse, and an international group of experts exploring the development of technology.

As guests enjoyed conversations, drinks and live music throughout the evening, Ms Carson-Jackson encouraged them to consider seafarers still trapped onboard vessels due to crew change challenges, and those impacted by the conflict in Ukraine.

“Many nations are still in lockdown. Many people are still suffering,” she said.

“In The Nautical Institute, we have a strong contingent of membership in Ukraine. We have Ukrainian and Russian seafarers, and my heart bleeds for each and every one of them.”

Ms Carson-Jackson also announced the launch of the Presidential Fund, otherwise known as the Jane Carson Memorial Fund.

Beginning with a silent auction at the event, the fund supports seafarers experiencing hardship through funds generated over time from selling and auctioning maritime-themed paintings.  

Finally, Richard Toone, Commodore of the Sydney Heritage Fleet, welcomed guests to enjoy the celebration onboard James Craig, which was built in 1874.

The restored tall ship is one four remaining and functioning 19th century barques in existence, and the only one in the Southern Hemisphere.

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