Following the recent fire aboard the Azamara Quest cruise ship, the Chief Fire Officers Association has voiced its concerns about how fires at sea are tackled.

CFOA President Lee Howell said: "The Department for Transport has ended the arrangement it put in place only a few years ago to protect people on board ships. It has done this to save a relatively modest sum of money which we believe is short sighted and will put the public at greater risk.

"Dealing with fires on board ships at sea is extremely dangerous and requires experienced fire and rescue service (FRS) professionals to protect the public. This is a central government responsibility and relying on 'cobbled together' arrangements on the day is simply not acceptable."

The previous nationally co-ordinated system of sending trained and equipped firefighters to deal with offshore blazes ended on April 1st with the current DfT plan involving sending untrained risk assessors in their place.

As recently as last week, fire ships were sent out to deal with a significant blaze aboard the Azamara Quest when one of the ship's engine rooms caught fire causing five crew members to suffer significant smoke inhalation.

The cruise's voyage was cut short just outside Borneo after being left adrift for nearly 24 hours and CFOA's lead on maritime issues, Steve Demetriou, believes this incident along with the Costa Concordia crash show the need for an effective emergency response.

"We have seen how long it can take to evacuate a large passenger vessel such as Concordia," he said. "The on-board resources are simply not sufficient to protect the passengers for this length of time which is why the FRS expertise and assistance is so valued by those in the marine industry.

"Each year over 23 million people travel on the seas around the UK and Maritime Incident Response Group (MIRG) has been required to intervene on a number of occasions to support vessels in distress. We know that each year there are approximately 35 fires on vessels at sea within UK territorial waters reported to the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) of which approx 2-3 would benefit from a FRS response to the fires on board vessels, as some of these incidents involve ships with over 500 people on board."

Posted 05/04/2012 by