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The fire aboard Grimaldi Lines Grande Costa D’Avorio on July 5th in the Port of New York/New Jersey was a clear reminder to port and terminal managers that we must make every effort to ensure our firefighters are well prepared to fight fires in an environment they are not used to. The tragic loss of two brave souls is a wakeup call for all of us. Deaths aboard ships might be prevented if firefighters were universally trained in ports on how to approach fires aboard ships — in the same manner many of us who went to sea were trained. In the 1990’s Massport teamed up with our local fire departments to train the trainer in shipboard firefighting and vessel construction. We took representatives from each of the surrounding departments out during a scheduled shakedown cruise of the TS PATRIOT STATE from Massachusetts Maritime Academy. At sea, they were given multiple scenarios to tackle, lectures on ship structure, techniques that shipboard personnel were trained on, and a host of other material to assist them in explaining to the personnel in their respective departments the dangers of getting trapped on ships and the difference in landside and shipboard firefighting. Massport paid for this training with the cooperation of MARAD and the Academy. We then hosted a number of seminars for the trainers to teach their comrades about shipboard fires and vessel construction, as well as the unique environment of ships. This type of program has been also offered by other ports throughout the U.S. and Canada by their respective fire departments and terminals. In the U.S. the requirements are set forth in 33 CFR Part 155, and as port and terminal managers it is our responsibility to do all we can to support our firefighters in doing the job they need to do in an often-unfamiliar environment.

In the modern world, ship design varies considerably. Vessel fires are all too frequent. A lot has changed since my dad was a member of the crew on the SS MORRO CASTLE in 1934 when she burned off the coast of New Jersey — but still lives are lost, and fires occur despite our best efforts to develop fireproof ships. Revisit your Emergency Operations Plans, develop advanced Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s), and train your firefighters on how vessels are built and work with your departments to develop a train the trainer program. Firefighters learn best from other firefighters and helping the trainers specialize in these types of incidents will protect their lives and those of their men and women in their houses. The costs are minimal and the value of one life is priceless. As port managers and executives, there's more we can do to equip our local emergency responders for a vessel emergency. There are numerous groups around North America that offer training and guidance — take advantage of their expertise. Make effective training and drills part of your management strategy. When coordinating training and drills, talk to the lines that call on your ports: they're typically willing to host firefighters for tours, particularly the cruise lines. Most importantly, sit down with your local firefighting agencies and develop plans for training and drills that make every effort to protect these brave and dedicated personnel. We all mourn the loss of the two brave men who lost their lives in Port Newark. As a tribute to them, let's make every effort to protect those who continue to serve in this dangerous field.

If you need guidance on how to undertake this effort, contact us at the IAMPE. We will be happy to provide what assistance we can. Capt. Jeff Monroe, Education Director, IAMPE | |207-741-7000.


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