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Emergency planning

SOLFIRE emergency plan


SOLFIRE is a contingency plan developed to deal with any marine emergency or non-routine incident occurring within the Dockyard Port of Portsmouth, the Port of Southampton Provision and the wider Solent Coastguard co-ordination area. This area will be referred to as the SOLFIRE command area.

This emergency plan has been produced jointly by the Harbour Authorities of Southampton and Portsmouth, in consultation and agreement with Maritime and Coastguard Agency (South of England) other emergency services and relevant local authorities.


This plan is a voluntary scheme intended to provide the command, control and communications structure to draw together and co-ordinate adequate resources to deal with any marine emergency occurring within the Solfire Command Area. It is to be supplemented by other contingency and action plans held by the emergency services, local authorities, commercial facilities and marine related companies which will be activated as necessary.


Nothing in this plan shall relieve any person or organization from any statutory obligation or responsibility


The response provided by Solfire will be graded according to defined classifications of marine emergency or incident The initial response will be graded primarily by the level of resources required to deal with the incident and by its probable impact on land based authorities. The incident may be upgraded/downgraded at any time by the Initiating Authority or the emergency services as is deemed appropriate or as the circumstance dictate.


  • CLASS A SOLFIRE – An incident that can be dealt with by the Initiating Authority using resources readily available and with little or no impact on land based authorities.
  • CLASS B SOLFIRE – An incident that can be dealt with by the resources readily available but where the Initiating Authority needs some assistance from one or more land based emergency services. No significant impact is anticipated on other land based authorities but they should consider themselves alerted.
  • CLASS C SOLFIRE – An incident where there is expected to be a significant impact on land based authorities and where a multi-agency tactical level of co-ordination is considered necessary. Elements of the National Maritime Contingency Plan may be activated.
  • CLASS D SOLFIRE – A major incident requiring the full resources of the Solfire Plan and a co-ordinated response from both the initiating authorities and land based agencies with an activation of the National Maritime Contingency Plan.

1.6 INITIATING AUTHORITIES (See Solfire chart download below)

  • SOLENT COASTGUARD – (Solfire South)

In most circumstances the Initiating Authority will be defined by the geographical location of the emergency or incident. Note Each Initiating Authority has a 24-hour operations room linked by direct communications.


In the event of a marine emergency or non-routine incident occurring the Initiating Authority, represented by their Duty Officer, will activate Solfire by giving an initial classification and initiating the activation


When SOLFIRE is activated, the priorities are:

i. Saving of Life.

ii. Minimizing risk to the environment.

iii. Safety of Navigation.

The full Solfire plan can be downloaded below.

Oil pollution plans

The Merchant Shipping (Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co Operation Convention) Regulations 1998, amongst other things, made it a requirement for Port Authorities to plan and make preparations to reduce the damaged caused by oil pollution incidents.

The response is divided up into a three tiered approach as follows:

  • Tier 1 response is defined as a small operational spillage that can be dealt with using the resources immediately available.
  • Tier 2 response for medium size spills that require the use of equipment held at longer notice or which require the assistance of the Tier 2 Contractor. (who has been pre arranged to provide support in an emergency).
  • Tier 3 response for large oil spills that exceed local capabilities and which may require national assistance and/or the implementation of the National Contingency Plan.

The main Oil Pollution Plan for Portsmouth Harbour is controlled and administered by the Dockyard Port of Portsmouth, through the offices of the Queen’s Harbour Master.

Portsmouth International Port will deal with Tier 1 spills for its area of responsibility, namely:

  • Cruise and Ferry Port
  • Albert Johnson Quay
  • Flathouse Quay
  • Gunwharf Tall Ships Berths
  • The Town Camber Docks

All other areas in the Harbour will be dealt with by the Dockyard Port.

 Commercial berth emergency plans

Each commercial berth operator has its own local emergency plan as follows:

  • The Portsmouth Cruise and Ferry Port – Emergency Plan.
  • The WightLink Gunwharf Terminal – Emergency Plan.
  • The Albert Johnson Quay and Flathouse Quay – Emergency Plan.
  • The Gunwharf Quays – Berths Emergency Procedures.

The main purpose of each plan is to set up the command and control systems and actions required for dealing with emergencies on the individuals site. The plans contain amongst other things, site maps, call out contact details, emergency contact details, procedures for dealing with the emergency, check lists and evacuation plans.

Copies of the plans are kept at Portsmouth International Port for the above areas

RNLI lifeboats

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is a registered charity which exists to save lives at sea. It provides a 24-hour on call service to cover search and rescue requirements to 50 miles out from the coast of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

The Solent has several RNLI lifeboat stations as follows:

  • All weather lifeboats are stationed at Selsey, Bembridge, Calshot and Yarmouth.
  • Inshore lifeboats are stationed at Portsmouth, Hayling Island, Selsey, Bembridge, Calshot and Lymington.

Full details are avalable on the RNLI’s website.