Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Services (NIFRS) has developed a new specialist Marine Response Team that has the capability to respond to incidents involving a fire or persons trapped onboard a vessel on Northern Ireland's coastal waters
Northern Ireland Fire's Marine Response Team has received official confirmation that it can operate alongside the national Marine Incident Response Group and has also been declared an asset to the Maritime and Coast Guard Agency.
The team participated in a final training exercise recently alongside the Maritime and Coast Guard Agency and the Irish Coast Guard. Members of the team were winched by the Irish Coast Guard's helicopter onto an operational passenger ferry, travelling from Belfast to Liverpool, to deal with a simulated fire and to carry out and search and rescue onboard the vessel.
Chris Kerr, Acting Assistant Chief Fire Officer and Head of NIFRS Specialist Response Teams, explains: "The exercise was the final element in a culmination of work over the past number of years which involved specialist training alongside our national colleagues in the search and rescue field. We now have official confirmation that this team is operating at Marine Incident Response Group level and it has also been declared an asset to the Maritime and Coast Guard Agency - this is a major achievement for our organisation.
"Our Marine Response Team is based at Whilta Fire Station in Belfast and each of the watches on the station has undergone intense specialist marine response training and will be using their expertise to support our colleagues in other emergency agencies to respond to a variety of incidents at sea.
"Not only is this team a new asset to our organisation, enhancing our rescue role and capability in protecting the community, it is a vital lifeline to members of the public who may find themselves in difficulty on our coastal waters.
"This training exercise was as excellent opportunity to test our operational response to a range of potential incidents, so that in reality if we were faced with such a scenario, the Marine Response Team would be familiar with the potential hazards involved at sea and would have experience of working with the relevant partner agencies in an emergency situation. We would like to thank thank our colleagues in the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Irish Coastguard as well as DFDS Seaways ferries and the onboard passengers for working with us in the training exercise."