A note on the boat

November 28, 2006

On Monday earlier this week, your Union met with representatives of the Department to discuss the operational aspects of the NSW Fire Brigade Boat, that’s unimaginatively referred to as “Marine 1”. For the interest of members, this notice shows where discussions are at and what the Department has in mind.

The Boat & its Berth

The Department wants the boat ‘to be a fire engine that goes across the water’, that deals with small craft fires, bushfires on the shore, structure fires on piers, marine hazmat incidents, laying booms, rescue, towing, and other roles that are still being negotiated with the Union. Major harbour emergencies will continue to be responded by firies seconded onto the large NSW maritime vessels.

The Boat will be an 8.5M x 2.5M twin hull at a cost of $300,000.00 due to finish being built by 18 December this year. At this stage the boat will work within Sydney Harbour – in fact its not certified to go outside the Heads, but it will be able to be towed on land across to Botany Bay and conceivably to other areas too.

Maintenance of the boat will be contracted out while the Boat’s engine will have enough fuel to run for 10 hours. It will be stored at secure facilities at Birkenhead Point and will be in the water ( ie not in dry dock). The “marina” has a shower and toilet facilities.

The Boat Crew

The Department has proposed that 1 of 3 stations (Leichardt #22, Balmain #12,  & Drummoyne #17) will respond to calls with a crew of 4 including an SO.  A minimum of two firies will be required to possess the NSW Maritime basic licence in instances where they are moving people around the harbour and the department will allow firies to sit that test in work time and will probably pay for course fees up front.

Apart from that basic competency, firies will be trained in 5 core skills areas such as maritime rescue and boat handling. These extra courses will be taught by operational NSWFB instructors who according to the Department have responded to expressions of interest for these positions some time ago.

For firies that don’t want to go on the boat who are based at one of the boat stations, the Department proposes to move them to a station closer to home or if that is not available to a station within a similar area.  It is then envisaged that a firie at that transferring station on the same platoon will then be offered to exchange positions. If more than one firie wants to exchange, the Department seemed to agree there would be a luck of the draw process.

Operationally, it is envisaged that one station will take a rotating lead role for crewing the boat, with another station knowing it will be a secondary station to fill-in where the first station is unavailable, as is currently the case with the Shirley Smith & Ted Noffs fire tugs.

Where to from here

The Brigade and Union have agreed to hold a review of the Boat every two months and to trial the boat for 6 months- subject to reaching agreement on the matters below and after receiving input from firies at the affected 3 stations.

The boat does not have a toilet, however the Department advises that there are several areas on shore where those facilities are available, at this stage the Union is not convinced and may insist on a toilet being placed on board.

The Department may also need to provide the Union with legal advice and/or an indemnity in circumstances where the driver of the boat causes damage.

The Union also needs to be satisfied that the safety gear is up to scratch and will continue to work with the Department to ensure that it is.

Overall, the Union is confident that “Marine 1” is a viable concept.

Comments about the boat can be directed to the Union, preferably by email to or by telephone to Kristian Bolwell on 92675552.


Simon Flynn

State Secretary



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