Isle of Man Steam Packet Company Fleet Operations Manager Frank O’Neill has received the Merchant Navy Medal for Meritorious Service from HRH The Princess Royal at a ceremony in London.
The state award was introduced in 2015 to replace the previous Merchant Navy Medal, and is awarded ‘to those who are serving or have served in the Merchant Navy and fishing fleets of the UK, Isle of Man or Channel Islands for exemplary service and devotion to duty, rewarding those who have set an outstanding example to others’.
In September Frank completed 48 years’ continuous service in the marine industry, having started his career in the merchant navy as an Engineer Officer Cadet in September 1969 at Riversdale Marine Engineering College.
He joined the Steam Packet Company in 1986, initially as Second Engineer Officer, and was promoted to Chief Engineer Officer two years later. In 1994, he played a leading role in the introduction of fast craft to Isle of Man routes and later moved into project management, spending time on secondment to the Steam Packet Company’s then parent company, Sea Containers. This saw Frank visit Scandinavia, ports in the English Channel and River Plate in Argentina, offering technical and operational support.
In 1999 he moved to a shore-based superintendent role, before being appointed Fleet Technical Manager in 2003, with overall responsibility for the Company’s vessels, shore workshops and fixed port installations. Two years ago, he was promoted to Fleet Operations Manager, which gave him the added responsibility for the Company’s Safety Management System and the role of Designated Person Ashore.
Frank attended Trinity House in London to receive the medal, accompanied by his wife, Marie, daughter Kerry and granddaughters Olivia and Gabriella.
He said: ‘To be recognised in this way is a tremendous honour and the ceremony itself was a humbling occasion, but a wonderful experience to share with my family.’
Frank joined the Institute of Marine Engineers in 1982 and is an Incorporated Engineer with the UK Engineering Council, and a Fellow of the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology.
Since 2005, Frank has been an active member of the High Speed Craft Advisory Group, a UK Government-backed forum for which membership is by invitation only. The group discusses and advises on changes in policy or maritime law involving UK, international and European Union directives.
Isle of Man Steam Packet Company Chief Executive Mark Woodward said: ‘The Merchant Navy Medal is a worthy and fitting recognition of Frank’s dedication to the marine industry over nearly half a century. He has tremendous respect from within both the Company and the industry and we are honoured that he has received this award.
‘Although his responsibilities have not been confined to fast craft ferries, Frank was closely involved in several conversions, upgrades and major hull and machinery repairs to a variety of fast craft since they were introduced to Manx routes in 1994. He has established close working relationships with peers throughout the fast ferry world, spending time visiting the building yards of Incat in Tasmania and Western Australia to view construction methods and speak with designers.
‘In recent years, Frank played a leading role in reintroducing engineering apprenticeships within our workshops, preparing young engineers for a career at sea. He worked with UK and Isle of Man Government agencies to establish this programme, which is something last utilised in the Island in the 1980s. The first apprentice completed his four-year shore-based training in 2013 and went on to serve as a junior engineer within our fleet. It this kind of dedication for which Frank has received the Merchant Navy Medal and it is richly deserved.’
One: Frank receives the Medal from HRH The Princess Royal Two: Frank and his family meet HRH; from left, Frank’s wife Marie, granddaughters Olivia and Gabriella, and daughter Kerry