Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service cuts ‘could be risk to sea safety’

CUTS Firefighter Simon Lovelock at Cosham fire station is part of the Marine Incident Response Group.  Picture: Paul Jacobs (113609-1)
CUTS Firefighter Simon Lovelock at Cosham fire station is part of the Marine Incident Response Group. Picture: Paul Jacobs (113609-1)
HMS Illustrious leaves Portsmouth for the last time
Picture: Shaun Roster

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FIREFIGHTERS are warning that seafarers’ lives could be put at risk from cuts to a service which responds to ships in danger.

The Marine Incident Response Group (Mirg) was the first specialised fire and rescue service set up to deal with off-shore incidents. It has worked with 15 fire services nationally, including Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service.

But the scheme, which cost £3m to set up, was axed by the Department of Transport in September.

Mirg will stop running on December 14.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service has around 50 firefighters who volunteer for Mirg. Firefighters will not lose their jobs.

Andy Bowers, who is head of response for Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and is also part of Mirg, said: ‘Before Mirg we had our own arrangements. But the good thing about it was that all services were working together so there was a consistency in responding.

‘We are concerned about this cut because the original risk assessment carried out is still valid. For us, the most important thing is for the fire services to work under the same system.

‘And to remove Mirg without a replacement would place a risk on seafarers.’

Firefighter Simon Lovelock, of Cosham fire station, added: ‘We get specialist training and equipment to help us on these rescues when we get a call.’

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which is a government-funded marine safety organisation, insists safety will not be compromised.

A spokesman added: ‘Ships operate safely every day on the oceans of the world where a Mirg-style capability could never reach them in the event of a fire.

‘Seafarers are trained to contain and tackle fires.

‘In the five years of its existence, the Mirg has only been used six times, and has not had a significant impact on any those fires.’