The history of Nautilus International

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.

1850s – UK roots

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

1880s – New unionism in the UK and Switzerland

1887 UK – Marine Engineers' Union established.

1888 Switzerland – First transport workers' association in Basel formed.

1890s – Changes in the UK

1893 UK – 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 UK – Marine Engineers' Union becomes Marine Engineers' Association (MEA).

1900s – Dutch roots and Swiss growth

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

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

1907 Switzerland – HTV (Commercial and Transport Workers' Association) established.

1908 Switzerland – HTV sets up wood & coal transport group.

1910s – Syndicalism in Europe

1911 Switzerland – HTV sets up dockers' group.

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

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

1915 Switzerland – HTV merges with VLG (Food, Beverage and Tobacco Workers' Association) to form VHTL/FCTA (Retail, Commercial, Transport & Food Workers' Union). VHTL is from the German language version of the union's name and FCTA is from the French/Italian version.

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

1920s – Between the wars

1921 UK – AWT merges with Cable Telegraphists' Association to form the Association of Wireless and Cable Telegraphists (AWCT). Navigators' Insurance Company established.

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

1926 UK – AWCT incorporates the Cable Staffs Association

1928 UK – Officers' (Merchant Navy) Federation established to enable officers’ organisations throughout the British Commonwealth to unite in common effort, while retaining independence and individuality

1930s – Changes in the UK

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

1936 UK – 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 UK – British Air Line Pilots' Association (BALPA) established for airline pilots. Airline navigation officers and flight engineers were to join the NEOU, not BALPA.

1938 UK – AWCT changes its name to the Radio Officers' Union (ROU).

1940s – Closer cooperation

1942 UK – MMSA joins the Officers' Federation and agrees with NEOU to limit its membership to masters serving in command.

1950s – More mergers

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

1953 Switzerland – VHTL/FCTA Sektion Seeleute (Seafarers' Branch) established.

1954 UK – Grimsby Trawler Officers' Guild established.

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

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

1960s – New developments

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

1967 Netherlands – 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).

1970s – Further consolidation

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

1976 UK – Grimsby Trawler Officers' Guild incorporated into MNAOA.

1980s – NUMAST begins

1985 UK – 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.

1990s – Aviation transfer

1990 UK – Flight engineer members of NUMAST transfer out to BALPA (which is now open to non-pilot members).

2000s – Becoming international

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

2006 UK and Netherlands – 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.

2007 Netherlands – Nautilus NL forms a partnership with Dutch builders' union FNV Bouw for the benefit of members in FNV's dredging section (FNV Waterbouw).

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

2010s – The Swiss join

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

2015 Netherlands – FNV Waterbouw moves to become an integral part of Nautilus International.

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