On 18 February 2021, Fire and Rescue New South Wales (FRNSW) advised the ATSB of the following safety action, as summarised below, taken to improve marine firefighting awareness and capability since the Iron Chieftain incident:
- FRNSW currently has a representative on the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC) Working Group for Marine Firefighting. FRNSW is working with all member agencies to produce a nationally consistent approach and, when completed, will release a Standard Operations Guideline (SOG).
- FRNSW has undertaken two training exercises with the Royal Australian Navy.
- FRNSW has a schedule of familiarisation and training visits with Svitzer Tugs at Port Kembla with the goal of improving interoperability. In addition, a tabletop exercise (Exercise Whale two) was conducted as a follow-on from Exercise Whale.
- FRNSW, through AMSA, was involved in a ‘policy sprint’ workshop to commence the development of a national framework for maritime emergencies. FRNSW continues to be the Hazardous Noxious Substance response team for AMSA, although training has been on hold due to COVID‑19.
- FRNSW, in collaboration with NSW Maritime (Transport for NSW), have reviewed and updated the Memorandum of Understanding in Relation to Hazardous Materials Incidents on Inland and State Waters.
In addition, FRNSW commented that the Iron Chieftain fire was safely extinguished and the incident brought to a safe conclusion with no loss of life, major injury to crew or firefighters, escape of pollutants into the environment or damage to port infrastructure despite FRNSW not being the initial combat agency.
Additionally, FRNSW stated that, while not a marine firefighting specialist, the use of subject matter experts (as denoted within the Australian Inter-Service Incident Management System (AIIMS)), from the vessel, port authorities, marine consultants and the Victorian Metropolitan Fire Brigade’s Marine Command, assisted firefighting efforts with instantaneous specialist advice and input into the formulation of Incident Action Plans (IAP).
Finally, FRNSW advised that, although located on a vessel, the fire was similar to ones that FRNSW routinely attend that involve fire in underground basements and confined spaces, involving deep seated rubber fires and the use of breathing apparatus, atmospheric monitoring and foam. FRNSW was therefore able to adapt its many Standard Operational Guidelines to safely respond to and conclude this incident.
The ATSB acknowledges the safety action taken and proposed by Fire and Rescue New South Wales (FRNSW) in response to the ATSB investigation. However, the ATSB considers that further safety action by FRNSW, in particular, action potentially resulting from work underway through the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC) is necessary to address the safety issue. Therefore, the ATSB issues the following safety recommendation to FRNSW.