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Hazard

Military vessels

Hazard Knowledge

The construction of military vessels is unique and differs from any other commercial sea-going vessel. This will be due to the extensive division of the vessel into small watertight compartments by transverse and longitudinal bulkheads with watertight hatches. This type of construction makes internal firefighting operations difficult due to restricted and enclosed spaces or compartments.

The issue of responsibility in firefighting on board military vessels is complex and a comprehensive understanding between Royal Navy (RN) and fire and rescue service personnel is essential; therefore, the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles (JESIP) will also apply to incidents involving military vessels.

The following information applies to Royal Navy vessels, submarines and vessels of the Royal Fleet Auxiliaries (RFA), in both ports and dockyards.

Responsibility

The responsibility for command and control of any firefighting operations aboard RN/RFA vessels varies according to the state of operational readiness of the vessel at the time of the incident.

Generally, the vessels will be:

  • In commission with an operational crew on board, or
  • In an unmanned refit state (afloat or in dry dock), not in commission, in the hands of contractors

When a RN/RFA vessel or a nuclear submarine is in commission the following procedure will apply:

  • On arrival, the fire and rescue service incident commander will be met at HQ1 or the brow (usually marked by a red flag) and escorted directly to the vessel's officer responsible for safety
  • Following consultation with the fire and rescue service incident commander, the vessel's officer responsible for safety (known as the officer of the day) will decide whether to ask the fire and rescue service to stand by or may alternatively ask the fire and rescue incident commander to undertake firefighting operations.

When a RN/RFA vessel or a nuclear submarine is NOT in commission the following procedure will apply:

  • On arrival, the fire and rescue service incident commander will be met at HQ1 (which may be on the quayside) and liaise with the contracts manager who is responsible for vessel

Command and control of firefighting operations

If the vessel's officer responsible for safety decides that RN/RFA firefighting resources are sufficient to deal with the incident, the fire and rescue service in attendance should remain on standby. The senior fire officer should remain at HQ1 for liaison and consultation purposes until a fire and rescue service presence is no longer required.

If the vessel's officer decides that fire and rescue service assistance is required to extinguish the fire, the senior fire and rescue service officer will be asked to undertake firefighting operations. At that point, command and control of operations will be formally delegated to the senior fire and rescue service officer in attendance. Close and effective liaison with RN or RFA nominated representative should be maintained throughout the period of the incident.

Munitions

Military or RN vessels may have a quantity of small arms or larger munitions. Ascertaining the presence and locations of munition stores will be a priority for the incident commander. Incident commanders should also be aware of the potential for commercial shipping to be carrying small arms for defence purposes.