THE nation’s future seafarers have received a major boost with a £380,000 donation from Southampton-based Carnival UK, parent company of P&O Cruises and Cunard.

Local youngsters from the Sea Cadets were invited to tour P&O Cruises’ Azura while she was in port yesterday to cement the new relationship between Carnival UK and the Sea Cadets, the country’s largest nautical youth charity.

The donation will help fund the Sea Cadets’ brand new £4.8million flagship due to enter service next year and also support the seamanship qualification which will enable 14,000 Sea Cadets, aged between ten and 18, to broaden their career options in the maritime industry.

Martin Coles, the Sea Cadets’ chief executive, said: “The badge will enhance the Sea Cadets’ experience by offering young people the chance to explore all types of seafaring careers, helping to give them the best possible head start in life.”

Across the UK young people gain a seamanship qualification with Sea Cadets, learning a range of skills essential to operating in the maritime environment.

This qualification is the foundation of a career at sea and any water-based activity, plus the qualification will enhance cadets’ experience on the new flagship which Carnival has helped fund.

Carnival UK chief executive, David Dingle said: “Sea Cadets provides a solid foundation for youngsters.

“It teaches them practical and life skills which will stay with them throughout their journey into adulthood.

“These young people are our future and we should take every opportunity to invest in them and in their chances to learn and grow.

“I am delighted that we are able to play a part in this with our donation to their new flagship and seamanship qualification.”

While on board Azura the Southampton Sea Cadet members visited the bridge where they met the ship’s master, Captain David Pembridge.

Captain of Sea Cadets Jonathan Holloway said: “Carnival is not just donating money towards our new flagship, but by sponsoring our seamanship qualification and offering ship visits they are helping young people build their careers.

“We hope that our cadets will grab this opportunity with both hands.”