International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea
The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) is an international maritime safety treaty. The SOLAS Convention in its successive forms is generally regarded as the most important of all international treaties concerning the safety of merchant ships.
The first version of the treaty was passed in 1914 in response to the sinking of the RMS Titanic. It prescribed numbers of lifeboats and other emergency equipment along with safety procedures, including continuous radio watches.
Newer versions were adopted in 1929, 1948, 1960, and 1974.
The intention had been to keep the convention up to date by periodic amendments, but the procedure to incorporate the amendments proved to be very slow: it could take several years for the amendments to be put into action since countries had to give notice of acceptance to IMO and there was a minimum threshold of countries and tonnage.
As a result, a complete new convention was adopted in 1974 which includes all the agreements and acceptant procedures. Even the Convention was updated and amended on numerous times, the Convention in force today is sometimes referred as SOLAS, 1974.
The 1960 Convention — which was activated on 26 May 1965 — was the first major achievement for International Maritime Organization (IMO) after its creation and represented a massive advance in updating commercial shipping regulations and in staying up-to-date with new technology and procedures in the industry.
The 1974 version simplified the process for amending the treaty. A number of amendments have been adopted since. The latest Convention in 1974 included the "tacit acceptance" procedure whereby amendments enter into force by default unless nations file objections that meet a certain number or tonnage.
In particular, amendments in 1988 based on amendments of International Radio Regulations in 1987 replaced Morse code with the Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS) and came into force beginning 1 February 1992. An idea of the range of issues covered by the treaty can be gained from the list of sections (below).
Regions of International Water
Sections of the Treaty
International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974
- Chapter I – General Provisions
- Chapter II-1 – Construction – Subdivision and stability, machinery and electrical installations
- Chapter II-2 – Fire protection, fire detection and fire extinction
- Chapter III – Life-saving appliances and arrangements
- Chapter IV – Radiocommunications
- Chapter V – Safety of navigation
- Chapter VI – Carriage of Cargoes
- Chapter VII – Carriage of dangerous goods
- Chapter VIII – Nuclear ships
- Chapter IX – Management for the Safe Operation of Ships
- Chapter X – Safety measures for high-speed craft
- Chapter XI-1 – Special measures to enhance maritime safety
- Chapter XI-2 – Special measures to enhance maritime security
- Chapter XII – Additional safety measures for bulk carriers
- International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974 from the International Maritime Organization
- International Life-Saving Appliance (LSA) Code – under the auspices of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) of 1 November 1974, (London, 4 June 1996)
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