Firefighting teams from Kent Fire and Rescue Service alongside colleagues from Zeeland, Antwerp, Beveren, Ghent and Calais have established international specialist teams called Maritime Incident Response Groups that can respond to incidents on board ships.
The fast and effective intervention of these teams in the case of fire or incidents involving hazardous substances prevents casualties and evacuations at sea, and helps to combat environmental pollution. Once the incident is under control, the ship can be taken to a safe port, which keeps inconvenience to other shipping traffic to a minimum.
Kent fire service’s director of operations Steve Demetriou said: ‘Each country supplies its own MIRG team and, together, all the country teams form a single MIRG-EU team. Each partner country normally follows its own national firefighting protocols, uses its own equipment and complies with its own training requirements; but in this international context it is essential that the teams are coordinated so they can deal with incidents using the same methods, use interchangeable equipment, have undertaken the same training and use the same terminology.’
The teams can support and interchange with each other in the case of protracted incidents and are regulated by the jointly formulated standard operational procedures. These were signed by representatives from all the partners on 26 September at Antwerp Fire Station.
Mr Demetriou commented: ‘This is an important collaboration as it recognises the risk of fires and emergencies at sea, as seen in high profile incidents such as the Costa Concordia disaster. Each fire and rescue service brings valuable skills to the partnership about how we all deal with different incidents, from fire and chemical incidents to search and rescue. This signing is a major step in how we can share vital life-saving practices and learn from each other.’