Thursday, 12 February 2015

Decision made on Maritime Response Team

East Sussex Fire Authority has voted to continue to provide a Maritime Response Team, while reducing its size to a team of 36 centred at Newhaven Community Fire Station.

It follows a discussion at the Fire Authority’s meeting on 12 February 2015 as part of ongoing efforts to make savings while continuing to deliver a service which will protect the public.

Chairman of the Fire Authority Phil Howson said:

“We need to take a pragmatic approach to making decisions on service provision. We are fortunate that incidents at sea are rare. We also know that should an incident occur, they can be very difficult to tackle and specialist skills are vital. We have taken this into account when making our decision.”

Three options were considered and the Fire Authority voted in favour of Option 2

Option 2 – Reduce the size of the Maritime Response Team and introduce a range of efficiency measures

A team of 36 personnel would be centred at Newhaven Community Fire Station - the marshalling area for Maritime Response. While no firefighter posts would be lost, this would mean 9 personnel at Barcombe are no longer part of the MRT. This would be for a period of three years subject to further consultation with staff.

This would lead to saving of £14,000 per annum through a reduction in availability allowance claims, spend on overtime, training and equipment. 

Background

Coastal Fire and Rescue Services have a statutory duty to fight fires on vessels within their area by virtue of Section 72 of the Local Government Act 1972. This confirms that the area of responsibility for Coastal Fire Authorities generally extends to the mean low water mark at ordinary tide. There is no statutory duty, however, for provision of offshore firefighting, beyond the mean low water mark, imposed on Fire Authorities. This means that there is no separate identified budget stream for this capability within the UK.

As a result of the ‘Sea of Change’ project the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA), supported the provision of the additional training, equipment and Personal Protection Equipment necessary to allow fire and rescue services to respond offshore, as well as the costs of any operational deployment, which were then recoverable directly from the MCA. Both the MCA’s funding and the interim Chief Fire Officers’ Association (CFOA) National Resilience Fire & Rescue Marine Response framework have now ceased operations.

Along with some other coastal Fire and Rescue Services, East Sussex FRS was successful in identifying funding to enable it to maintain an offshore response managed under local arrangements; this has been operating in its current format since early 2012.

Alternative options

These were the alternative options available to the Fire Authority:

Option 1 – Maintaining existing offshore maritime capability

Maintain a fully funded Maritime Response Team (MRT) at its present establishment with team members drawn from Newhaven Community Fire Station and Barcombe Community Fire Station.

This has average annual costs of approximately £81,000 per annum, including additional costs of £3,000 for storage of equipment which cannot be accommodated within the new Newhaven Fire Station

Option 3 – Cease to provide an offshore maritime response capability

As a result the team would not be available to deploy as part of a wider attendance to incidents below the low water mark, such as attendance at pier fires, or the incidents off Beachy Head. It would not affect the Service’s ability to meet its statutory duty in relation to dealing with ship fires alongside in harbour. This would save £81,000 per annum.

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