The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), is an Executive Agency of the Department for Transport (DfT), that has statutory duty under the Coastguard Act 1925 for the initiaton and co-ordination of civil maritime search and rescue within the United Kingdom Search and Rescue Region (UKSSR). This includes the mobilisation, organisation and tasking of adequate resources to respond to persons in distress at sea.

Fire and Rescue Services (FRS) are administered under a number of different arrangements including combined Fire Authorities, County Councils and joint Fire and Civil Defence boards. There are 62 FRS's in the British Isles, of which 39 have a prominent coastline with associated marine risks.

Each Fire Authority is required to make provision for firefighting and rescue within its own area as determined by the Fire Services Act 2004. This act also confers powers on Local Authority FRS where they may make provisions for dealing with incidents that occur outside of that area, eg. 'at sea'. The act further determines that this provision is not restricted to the territorial sea of the United Kingdom(UK).

An increasing decline in UK resilence for dealing with fires at sea provided the catalyst for the 'sea of change' project , which at the request of the Secretary of State for Transport was launched by the MCA in partnership with the Chief Fire Officers Association(CFOA) in January 2003.

The primary aim of the project was to formalise a fully trained, equipped and integrated FRS response to assist the MCA (through the Coastguard) in dealing with incidents involving fire, chemical hazards and industrial accidents at sea. This response would be drawn from the thirty nine 'coastal' FRS's who collectively represented the CFOA Marine Operations Group (MOG).

The project, the first of its kind in the world, culminated in the provision of an integrated inter-agency national strategy, for dealing with incidents in the maritime environment with the introduction of the UK FRS Maritime Incident Response Group (MIRG) launched in April 2006.