Blackpool LGBT+ rights champion receives maritime medal

Paul Owen Credit: PA

A Lancashire sailor bullied early in his career over his sexuality has been awarded a medal for promoting diversity in the maritime sector.

Second Officer Paul Owen is the first recipient of the Merchant Navy Medal for championing LGBT+ rights, the Department for Transport said.

Mr Owen, from Blackpool, helped establish the Pride in Maritime network while seconded from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) to umbrella body Maritime UK.

The network educates and enables individuals and companies to embrace the LGBT+ community.

The 53 year old said he was "deeply humbled and surprised to receive this honour".

He was among 16 mariners to be recognised with Merchant Navy Medals, which are awarded for outstanding service by Merchant Navy seafarers.

Maritime minister Robert Courts said: "Every year I am humbled by the dedication of these sailors, captains and mariners who consistently go above and beyond the call of duty to protect and enrich the sector and our country.

"Diversity is vital for the success of any sector and the extraordinary work they do on a daily basis not only makes maritime a welcoming career path for everyone but improves the lives of those already in the workforce."Mr Owen will be appointed as the Royal Fleet Auxiliary's LGBT+ champion when he returns to the RFA this autumn.