History

Nautilus International traces its history back more than 150 years to 1857, when the Mercantile Marine Service Association was founded in the UK in response to the provisions of the 1850 Merchant Shipping Act.

Over the decades, various bodies representing seafarers and inland navigation workers in three countries were founded - and later joined together in the interests of their members, resulting eventually in the organisation we now know as Nautilus International.

The sections below show the Union’s origins and development in the UK, Netherlands and Switzerland.

UK

1857 – Mercantile Marine Service Association (MMSA) established to ‘improve the condition and promote the interests of masters, officers and men of the British Merchant Service’

1887 – Marine Engineers’ Union established

1893 – Some MMSA members break away to form the Imperial Merchant Service Guild due to policy disagreements. The Guild encompasses the Sunderland British Shipmasters’ and Officers’ Protection Society

1899 – Marine Engineers’ Union becomes Marine Engineers’ Association (MEA)

1912 – Association of Wireless Telegraphists (AWT) established, largely as a result of the growing use of wireless telegraphy equipment at sea

1921 – AWT merges with Cable Telegraphists’ Association to form the Association of Wireless and Cable Telegraphists (AWCT)

1921 – Navigators’ Insurance Company established

1926 – AWCT incorporates the Cable Staffs Association

1935 – Navigation and Engineer Officers’ Union (NEOU) established, incorporating the Navigators’ Insurance Company

1936 – MMSA re-merges with Imperial Merchant Service Guild (retaining MMSA name). By this point the MMSA has also incorporated the Mercantile Marine Trawlermen’s Association and the Harbour & Dockmasters’ Association of the UK

1937 – British Air Line Pilots’ Association (BALPA) established for airline pilots. Airline navigation officers and flight engineers were to join the NEOU, not BALPA

1938 – AWCT changes its name to the Radio Officers’ Union (ROU)

1942 – MMSA agrees with NEOU to limit its membership to masters serving in command

1954 – Grimsby Trawler Officers’ Guild established

1956 – MEA and NEOU merge to form Merchant Navy and Airline Officers’ Association (MNAOA)

1967 – ROU changes its name to the Radio and Electronic Officers’ Union (REOU)

1976 – Grimsby Trawler Officers’ Guild incorporated into MNAOA

1985 – With all ships’ officers and (non-pilot) airline officers now covered either by the MMSA, MNAOA or REOU, these three bodies agree to merge to form the National Union of Marine, Aviation and Shipping Transport Officers (NUMAST). NUMAST membership is not limited to ships’ officers and therefore includes other maritime professionals

1990 – Aviation members of NUMAST transfer out to BALPA (which is now open to non-pilot members)

2006 – NUMAST changes to Nautilus UK, in order to modernise its name, remove reference to aviation members and reflect its working partnership with the Dutch union FWZ, which changes its name at the same time to Nautilus NL

2009 – Nautilus UK and Nautilus NL join forces and become Nautilus International, with British and Dutch branches created

2011 – Swiss maritime and inland waterways professionals transfer from the Unia union to join UK and Dutch colleagues in Nautilus International

Netherlands

1901 – A group of 30 deck officers meet in Café De Pool in Amsterdam and establish de Bond van Nederlandsche Stuurlieden ter Koopvaardij

1906 – De Bond van Nederlandsche Stuurlieden ter Koopvaardij allows shipmasters to join and changes its name to Vereeniging van Nederlandsche Gezagvoerders en Stuurlieden ter Koopvaardij

1913 – De Bond van Machinisten ter Koopvaardij established (union for maritime engineers)

1918 – Vereeniging van Radiotelegrafisten established (union for radio officers)

1922 – Vereeniging van Nederlandsche Gezagvoerders en Stuurlieden ter Koopvaardij and de Bond van Machinisten ter Koopvaardij together set up Centrale van Koopvaardij-officieren (CKO)

1924 – Vereeniging van Radiotelegrafisten joins CKO

1947 – CKO is no longer a federation of organisations, but becomes one union

1956 – CKO joins Centrale van Zeevarenden ter Koopvaardij (CKV)

1967 – CKV and Vereniging van Nederlandse Koopvaardij-officieren (VNKO - an officers’ union made up of a group of former CKV members), together with the new ratings’ union Algemene vereniging van Zeevarenden (AVZ), set up the Federatie van Werknemersorganisaties (FWZ)

1970 – CKO and VNKO merge into VKO (Vereniging van Kapiteins en Officieren ter Koopvaardij)

1997 – VKO and AVZ merge and become FWZ (Federatie van Werknemers in de Zeevaart)

2006 – FWZ changes its name to Nautilus NL

2009 – Nautilus NL and Nautilus UK join forces and become Nautilus International, with Dutch and British branches created

2011 – Swiss maritime and inland waterways professionals transfer from the Unia union to join UK and Dutch colleagues in Nautilus International

Switzerland

1888 – First transport workers’ association in Basel formed

1907 – HTV (Commercial and Transport Workers’ Association) established

1908 – HTV sets up wood & coal transport group

1911 – HTV sets up dockers’ group

1915 – HTV merges with VLG (Food, Beverage and Tobacco Workers’ Association) to form VHTL/FCTA* (Retail, Commercial, Transport & Food Workers’ Union)

1952 – VHTL/FCTA Sektion Rheinschifffahrt (Rhine Navigation Branch) established

1953 – VHTL/FCTA Sektion Seeleute (Seafarers’ Branch) established

2005 – VHTL/FCTA merges with four other unions to form Unia. Boatmen and seafarers form navigation section (Branche Schifffahrt)

2011 – Members of Unia’s navigation section transfer to Nautilus International to form the Swiss Branch

*VHTL is from the German language version of the union’s name and FCTA is from the French/Italian version.

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