As part of a drive to expand the diversity of the group and involve the marine sector, we were extremely fortunate to hold our first meeting of the year afloat on the DFDS Delft Seaways cross channel ferry, travelling from Dover to Dunkirk.
Things were looking up from the outset as we were blessed with calm water in the channel. The day started with a briefing at Dover Fire Station, where we were able to bombard Dave Brown with questions about ship firefighting. This was followed by an interesting ‘follow the leader’ drive to the ferry port terminal. Having safely navigated the right lanes, we passed all our checks and drove onto the ferry just as if we were going on holiday!
Before we got to look around the ship, it was back to reality for the SIGs normal meeting, which we held in the ship’s crew lounge. Following the usual minutes and business, Ben Mossop from the London Fire Brigade gave an excellent presentation on the ‘impact of extended travel distances upon firefighters and operations within modern railway tunnels’.
Following on from the meeting, we went on to begin our tour of the boat. We started on the bridge and had a full tour of the engine room and ships control room thanks to the Chief Engineer, Paul. We were then invited back on to the bridge to witness the crew expertly navigate the boat safely into the dock at Dunkirk. If that wasn’t impressive enough, we were reminded that the crew often have to dock the vessel in rough weather and high seas, which gave us all pause for thought, realising how lucky those of us without sea legs had been on the day.
On leaving Dunkirk, we continued our tour of the fire stations including all the fixed firefighting installations and emergency escape and rescue facilities. Seeing all the systems and equipment together while talking to the crew members gave a very interesting and reassuring insight into the maritime world of ship firefighting. Before we knew it, we were back looking at the famous white cliffs of Dover during a beautiful sunset. I think it’s fair to say we came away suitably impressed not just with the fire engineering but the whole camaraderie and team effort, all essential for firefighting and self-sufficiency when out at sea.
Thanks to David Brown and Dave Browning from Kent Fire and Rescue Service, and Stephen Fairlie of DFDS for arranging the trip, and not least the Master of the vessel Mike Mills for making us all feel so welcome.
Dave Harold – SIG member
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