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Five apprentices, including from Dover, Deal and Canterbury, qualify with ferry company DFDS

By Sam Lennon

DFDS hosted a special sailing across the Channel as it celebrated five more workers to completing their apprenticeships.

A passing out ceremony took place on board the ferry operators' Dunkerque Seaways on a round trip between Dover and Dunkirk on Wednesday.

It was attended by family, friends and industry representatives.

The newly qualified apprentices. From left, Jack Wilmshurst, Oliver Williams, Thomas Dignan, Sean Knight and Gary Steer
The newly qualified apprentices. From left, Jack Wilmshurst, Oliver Williams, Thomas Dignan, Sean Knight and Gary Steer

The apprentices qualified from the 2016 intake, with four, Sean Knight, Jack Wilmshurst, Oliver Williams and Gary Steer becoming able seafarers.

One, Thomas Dignan, qualified as a marine fitter.

Mr Wilmshurst, 25, is from Dover and a former pupil at the town's St Edmund's RC School.

He said: "I really enjoyed the training. I'd like to think I will have a long career with DFDS. I'd like to rise up but I'd like to take it step by step."

Mr Knight, 20, from Dover, said: "I am very proud to have passed out, it's been a long two years but overall it's been a good experience for us."

Mr Williams, 20, from Deal, is also an ex-St Edmund's pupil.

He said: "The training was very difficult but people on board made it very easy for me to settle in. Now I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

"The plan is to move up the ranks, probably first work my way towards quartermaster and then see how far as I can go."

Gary Steer, left, and Sean Knight
Gary Steer, left, and Sean Knight

Mr Steer, 25, is from Canterbury and a former pupil at Chaucer School.

"The training was very enjoyable, challenging at times, long hours and hard work. But overall it was good experience."

Mr Dignan, 28, said: "The training has been fantastic. I've learned a lot in the two year's I've been here. I have had a lot of helpful colleagues and good teachers and come a long way."

Mr Dignan lives in Doncaster but will live on board during work in the fortnight on, fortnight off system.

Gemma Griffin, company vice president of HR and crewing at DFDS said: “We are so proud of all of our apprentices.

"They have worked hard both at college and during the on-board phases of the programme."

The successful apprentices with their awards.. From left, Oliver Williams, Thomas Dignan and Jack Wilmshurst
The successful apprentices with their awards.. From left, Oliver Williams, Thomas Dignan and Jack Wilmshurst

An estimated 95% of imports come to Britain by ship yet figures show that there has been a substantial decline in seafarer ratings since the 1980s.

Figures for the Deparment for Transport show that The number of UK seafarer ratings was 30,000 in the 1980s but it is now less than 9,000.

There is a particular need for new generations as more than 70% of ratings currently in the UK maritime sector are aged 40-plus.

DFDS launched its apprentice programme in 2012 and has now seen 20 apprentices pass through the scheme, with 17 deck apprentices and 3 engineering apprentices qualifying.

The training is for 18 to 24 months.

There are three established schemes, for able seafarers, engineers and fitters, and the ferry company is now also offering a maritime catering scheme.

DFDS will take in new recruits in January.

For more information, visit careersatsea.org/opportunities-for-ratings

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