Ship fire stretches East Sussex: East Sussex Fire Brigade required all its offshore firefighting experience and expertise when called to a blaze on the 30,000 tonne ship, MV Oriental Highway. The fire was brought under control by fire, coastguard and other agencies, as the Liberian ship was moored nine miles out.(Marine firefighting)


AT 1015 ON FRIDAY APRIL 4, 2003, Dover Coastguard received a distress call from the MV Oriental Highway (28,997 tonne). The ship was a Liberian registered car carrier, and its Master informed them that there was a fire on board on one of the main decks. The C[O.sup.2] system had been operated but it seemed that the fire was still burning. The Master further informed them that, although he was still under ship's power, he was making preparations to abandon ship.

The MCA instructed the vessel to proceed to the English Inshore Traffic Zone and to drop anchor. They accepted assistance from a nearby vessel, the Sand Serin, to standby should it become necessary to abandon the ship and instructed the MCA managed Anglian Monarch to proceed with all haste. Eastbourne and Hastings lifeboats were launched.

Brigade Alert

At 1024, the MCA contacted East Sussex Fire Briagde's Mobilising Centre, requesting assistance. The principal officer for the day, DCFO Len Richards was contacted and immediately gave permission to mobilise the team.

The East Sussex Marine Team is a group of approximately 25 volunteers comprising of wholetime staff, retained firefighters and officers. The process of mobilising relies on crews at Newhaven and other nearby stations to prepare the offshore kits, transport equipment to the pre-arranged helicopter rendezvous point and to prepare the landing site.

Members of the team were alerted on or off duty and made their way to Newhaven Marine Unit to rig offshore suits and commence operational command procedures. On this particular morning, nine staff responded to the first alert, which would comprise East Sussex Fire One, or the first team to be committed offshore. …

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