Dr Alan Bury

Alan is a Senior Teaching Fellow with our School of Engineering and in 2023 was awarded the Merchant Navy Medal for Meritorious Service in recognition of his contribution to maritime education over more than two decades. But this, of course, isn’t where his story begins.

Growing up in one of the most economically deprived areas of the UK, he had little hope at all for his future, let alone any career prospects. However, his great-uncle would often regale a young Alan with tales of his time serving in the Merchant Navy during the Second World War, crossing the Atlantic in convoys and on one occasion being torpedoed by a German U-boat, spending hours in the water of the North Atlantic before being rescued by an escort vessel. So, having left school with less than a handful of GCSEs, much to his mother’s dismay, Alan set out in pursuit of a career at sea.

He initially worked for Maersk as a deck officer on their container ships, moving finished goods from China, where they were manufactured, to consumer markets in either Europe or America. Subsequently, he moved on to work for Holland America Line as a deck officer on their cruise ships, taking passengers to the Mexican Riviera in winter and the inside passages of Alaska and British Columbia in summer. Throughout his time at sea, Alan took on additional responsibilities mentoring cadets and making use of his experience as a qualified Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) tutor to teach English to crew members.

In 2011, after serving in the Merchant Navy for 10 years, Alan came ashore to work in the maritime education and training sector and that is where he found his vocation, as an educator. He joined LJMU as a research assistant, gaining a PhD in transport and logistics, whilst lecturing across our various maritime programmes. “Education brings a positive change in those who successfully engage in it,” says Alan. “Surely there can be no higher goal to aspire to. The empowerment and inspiration of others to be the best version of themselves that they can be.”

Alan strives to ensure that all students who enter his area of influence have a successful journey throughout their respective programmes of study. As a result, hundreds of students who have come through LJMU in the last decade have met him and benefited from it. He has given his time and energy to their education and in doing so has ensured access to work opportunities within the maritime sector for individuals representing a diverse range of backgrounds.

LJMU leads innovation in vocational education and training through partnerships with industrial organisations. The principal idea behind these being the combination of theoretical study, applied learning, and on-the-job experience. Alan’s training of future seafarers in LJMU’s 360° full mission ship simulator sits at the intersection of these three elements and is an essential aspect in equipping students with the skills needed to succeed in the modern labour market.

“I have come a long way over the years, from a less than auspicious beginning, but if I can do it, anyone can.”

– Dr Alan Bury

It was unsurprising to those who know him, and the students that he has inspired and continues to inspire, when they heard that Alan would be receiving national recognition for his efforts. He was awarded the Merchant Navy Medal for Meritorious Service in November 2023 by Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal at Trinity House in the City of London.

Presented to no more than 20 recipients annually, Alan was one of only 11 people to be awarded the medal in 2023, placing him among a very select few within the maritime sector. On gaining national, and royal recognition, he says: “It is an honour to have received this award and find myself now counted amongst such an inspiring list of previous recipients. It’s taking a while to really sink in. I have come a long way over the years, from a less than auspicious beginning, but if I can do it, anyone can.”

The Merchant Navy Medal for Meritorious Service recognises the often overlooked, but nationally important, work carried out by the men and women of the Merchant Navy, and their role in ensuring the safe movement of 95% of all UK trade. It is the highest honour within the maritime sector and is awarded to those who are serving, or have served, in the Merchant Navy or fishing fleets of the UK, Isle of Man or Channel Islands, who have demonstrated exemplary service and devotion to duty. Setting an outstanding example to others.

Having demonstrated throughout his career a willingness to put others before himself and consistently going above and beyond that which was expected of him, Alan is the present-day cutting edge of an historical connection between LJMU and the training of professionals for the maritime sector that goes back to the early 1800s.