Department for Transport

MIRG Latest News

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mike Penning) stated: 'As part of the comprehensive spending review that the Government set out last October, we announced the intention to consult interested parties about a review of the maritime incident response group (MIRG) funded by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA)'.

Since it was established in 2006, the MIRG has responded to six fire incidents and has not had a significant impact on the outcome of any of those.

Following consultation and extensive review, on 31st March 2012 the offshore firefighting capability provided by UK Fire and Rescue Services ceased.

As part of the Government's 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review the MCA reviewed the continued necessity for the Maritime Incident Response Group (MIRG).  

Following that review and it's associated consultation a decision was taken to discontinue the formal provision of the MIRG as a standing arrangement to tackle fires onboard ships at sea.

With effect from 1st April 2012 the following arrangements have applied.



The responsibility for fighting fires on ships at sea rests with the ship operating company.  Neither the MCA nor shore based Fire and Rescue Services (Fire and Rescue Services) are under any statutory duty to tackle such fires. Each ship operating company is obliged to have a safety management system, commensurate with the Articles of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and as accepted by the vessel's Flag State.

Among other things the SOLAS Convention sets out the requirements for fire protection, detection and extinction including fixed installations and hand held appliances.

Crew training in firefighting technique and organisation is mandated by the International Conventions on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW).

Upon receiving advice that a ship is on fire at sea Her Majesty's Coastguard will monitor the evolution of events and consider whether the actions being taken are sufficient to minimise the risk to the life of those onboard and to prevent the risk of maritime pollution. This action will include discussions with the Master and ship operating company representative - typically the ship operating company 'Designated Person Ashore (DPA).

Depending upon the success of the crew in extinguishing or containing the fire, consideration will be given to the need for Search and Rescue activity to disembark those onboard and the need to appoint of commercial salvors. As part of their overall objective to save the ship and it's cargo, salvors would provide the capability to contain or extinguish the fire.

Once the fire has been contained the ship operating company would be in a position to make application to coastal states for a Port or Place of Refuge. That would allow the ship to enter port so that shore Fire and Rescue Services could tackle the fire.  In accordance with International Maritime Organization guidelines on Places of Refuge, when appropriate and if time allows, the Secretary of State’s Representative (SOSREP) will request an inspection/assessment team board at sea for the purpose of evaluating the condition of the ship. The team will be comprised of experts appropriate to the situation and may include salvors, harbour masters, a MCA Marine Casualty Officer together with representatives of the local Fire and Rescue Services should they wish to be included.  The MCA will arrange for the safe deployment of the team and part of their assessment will be to make a comparison between the risks involved if the ship remains at sea and the risks that it would pose to a place of refuge and its environment.  In developing the best plan of action to manage the ship the SOSREP will always consult with the relevant stakeholders, including the Fire and Rescue Services and the Harbour Authority. Where it is appropriate a Fire Risk Management Plan (FRMP) may be developed.