Maritime Incident Response Group (MIRG)

1  Background

1.1  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.

1.2 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.

1.3 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).

1.4 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.

1.5 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).

1.6 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.


2.1  The MIRG consists of fifteen strategically located shore based FRS who provide a 24/7 response to incidents at sea where there is a risk of life or high environment risk for which firefighting, chamical hazard and/or rescue teams may be required.

2.2  The mission statement for the MIRG is

  • To save life
  • To reduce loss and mitigate environmental and ecological damage
  • To render whereappropriate all humanatarian services.

MIRG underpins the MCA vision ' to be a world of class organisation that is commited to preventing loss of life, continuoulsly improving maritime safety and protecting the marine environment'.

2.3 The following FRS make up the MIRG strategy: Cornwall, Guernsey, Hampshire, Jersey, Kent : East Sussex, Suffolk, Lincolnshire, Humberside, Highlands and Islands, Strathclyde, Lothian and Borders, Northumberland, North Wales and Mid and West Wales.  Northern Ireland FRS have embraced the MIRG 'model' and self fund a team which will declare at some time in the near future.

MIRG FRS Map (1200 KB)

2.4 The Fire Liaison Manager (FLM) who acts as a primary link between MCA and UK FRS's who constitute MIRG has responsible for the strategic management and development of inter-agency operational procedures, management of national training initiatives and review of equipment standards in conjunction with the Lead Officers . The FLM is assisted by the MIRG Training Officer, who is responsible for the development and effective implementation of the MIRG Training Strategy. Both of these posts are undertaken by seconded Fire Officers and funded by the MCA. These seconded posts are assisted by the Technical Support Officer within the MCA who provides the link between MIRG and MCA procedures and processes.

2.5 MIRG governance arrangements are provided by the MIRG Steering Group who oversee the management of and provide guidance, direction for the strategic development of the UK MIRG. Senior Managers from both the CFOA and MCA are represented at the Steering Group meetings, along with other key stakeholders.

3.  MIRG Mobilising Criteria

3.1 The MIRG will deploy to incidents involving fire, chemical hazards and industrial accidents at sea.

3.2  The MIRG will only mobilise through the co-ordination mechanisms of the Coastguard.

3.3 The MIRG will not normally respond to vessels under 300 tonnes gross weight and will not respond for the purposes of fire fighting to oil or gas rigs, platforms and floating production storage and offloading vessels. However, they may, subject to the local risk assesment, assist in relation to chemical release and/or industrial accidents involving persons trapped etc.

3.4 MIRG teams will not engage in salvage and the use of any writen agreementseg Llyods 'open forms'.

3.5 MIRG  deployment is initially subject to the master of the casualty vessel having requested assistance from landslide FRS and confirmation that the ships security alert system has not been activated.

3.6 In any circumstances the decision to deploy a MIRG FRS team rests with the Principle Officer (PO) of the 'lead assisting' MIRG FRS team.

4.  FRS MIRG Tasking

4.1  MCA Operations Advice Note (OAN) 438 detail arrangements for contacting and requesting MIRG assistance to maritime incidents.

4.2 On receipt of a distress call the Coastguard will consider informing the FLM (MIRG) where any incident involves fire, chemical hazards or industrial accidents at sea.

4.3 The FLM will determine if the incident meets the criteria for a MIRG deployment whilst making an initial assesment of the viability of MIRG operations within the context of information available from the casualty vessel.  FRS Risk Assesment (RA) methodology will be adopted for this and all subsequent assessments.

5.  Strategy

5.1 The overarching MIRG FRS strategy for any fire/ chemical hazard at sea, will be to stabilise and contain the incident until the casualty vessel can be brought alongside and sufficient resources deployed to conclude the incident.

6.  MIRG Website

6.1 For more detailed information regarding MIRG, please visit our website by clicking on the link here