News release text
Kent firefighters have been taking part in a ferry fire exercise alongside Maritime Incident Response Groups (MIRGs) from Holland, Belgium and France.
In the exercise scenario on 18 June, the groups were confronted with fire on one of the car decks of the DFDS Seaways’ cruise ferry, Princess Seaways.
The exercise tested the ability of the four teams to develop a strategy to combat the fire, to actually tackle an onboard incident and to hand over the command to a relaying group. The groups also tested their new equipment, specially made for maritime incidents.
After two years of training and exercise drills, the four teams are now ready to be called in for maritime incidents.
The firefighting teams brought their professional expertise onboard the vessel and used a ‘contain and maintain’ strategy to safeguard the vessel by containing the fire within as small a compartment as possible. The firefighters surrounded the fire and then looked to ensure that the spread of the fire did not breach the fire resisting compartment.
This allows a vessel to either be brought back alongside, where additional resources to mount a sustained attack on the fire can be utilised, or provides the additional time that the ship’s crew might need in order to safely evacuate all of the passengers and crew.
Steve Demetriou, Director of Major Projects and Resilience at Kent Fire and Rescue Service said: “We are delighted that DFDS are supporting the MIRG -EU project and promoting a capability that helps to make the sea a safer place in which to work and travel. Fire remains one of the top three causes of loss for marine vessels in the world fleet so it is really important that ship’s crew and operational firefighters are able to work together to mitigate its effects especially whilst vessels are out at sea.”
The senior fire service officer on the vessel, the Operations Commander, directed the firefighting operations but also liaised very closely with the Master of the vessel. The Master remains in full command of the emergency, to ensure that the firefighting actions do not have any adverse effect on the safety of the vessel. Eight men were winched from a helicopter on to the ship’s deck for assistance.
DFDS Seaways, which conducts regular safety training and drills across all its ships and operations, took the opportunity to also test its own safety procedures during the event as well.
Gert Jakobsen, Vice President, Group Communications at DFDS, commented: “The safety of our passengers and crew is of paramount importance to us, and we hold regular training exercises for our crew and staff to ensure they are able to respond to any incident at sea or on shore.
“Part of this training includes working closely with the fire and rescue services, who play an integral part in any incident at sea. We were delighted to be able to support the MIRGs by hosting this important event on one of our cruise ferries, as we believe it is crucial that all parties are able to train and test their response plans in a realistic environment.”
The exercise will be fully evaluated in the next few weeks, but the first observations are positive. The results of the project and the final exercise will be presented during the project’s final conference, 17 September in Vlissingen (NL).
In the European Interreg IV A 2 Seas project, MIRG-EU firefighting teams from Zeeland, Antwerp, Ghent, Beveren, Pas de Calais and Kent, supported by the Dutch Province of Zeeland, join forces. Together they set up international teams that are specialized in fighting maritime incidents: MIRGs. As these MIRGs know how to combat on board fires and incidents with toxic cargos, casualties and evacuations at sea can be avoided. Fast action can also avoid pollution of the natural environment. Once an incident is under control, the incident ship can be guided to a port. This way obstruction of other traffic is limited to a minimum.
In the two-and-a-half years the project has been running, MIRG members were selected, educated and trained. MIRGs from the four different countries work according to one training and operational program. Next to that all MIRGs are equipped with compatible materials. This way the groups can relay one another, if necessary.
Note to newsdesks:
For more information about the MIRG-EU exercise, photographs of the exercise or the MIRG-EU project in general, please contact Hanneke Blok, communication advisor of the project. T +31 643 424 519 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org