International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS)
The SOLAS International Convention, which stands for Safety of Life At Sea, is an international agreement developed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), aimed at protecting the safety of merchant shipping, with explicit reference to the protection of human life at sea.
Adopted: 1 November 1974
The SOLAS convention in its later forms is generally considered the most important of all international treaties relating to the safety of merchant ships. The first version was adopted in 1914, in response to the disaster of the Titanic, the second in 1929, the third in 1948 and the fourth in 1960. The 1974 version includes the tacit acceptance procedure – which provides that an amendment enters into force the a specific date unless, before that date, objections to the amendment are received by an agreed number of Parties.
As a result, the 1974 Convention has been updated and amended on numerous occasions. The Convention in force today is sometimes referred to as SOLAS, 1974, as amended.
The main objective of the SOLAS Convention is to specify the minimum standards for the construction, equipment and operation of ships, compatible with their safety. Flag States have a responsibility to ensure that ships under their flag meet their requirements and a number of certificates is prescribed in the Convention as evidence that this has been done. The control provisions also allow Contracting Governments to inspect ships of other Contracting States if there are reasonable grounds for believing that the ship and its equipment are not substantially in conformity with the requirements of the Convention – this procedure is known as port State control. The current SOLAS convention includes articles laying down general obligations, amendment procedures, and so forth, followed by an annex divided into 12 chapters.
Chapter I – General provisions
Chapter II-1 – Construction – Subdivision and stability, machines and electrical installations
Chapter II-2 – Fire protection, fire detection and fire extinguishing
Chapter III – Rescue devices and provisions
Chapter IV – Radiocommunication
Chapter V – Navigation security
Chapter VI – Cargo transportation
Chapter VII – Transport of dangerous goods
Chapter VIII – Nuclear ships
Chapter X – Security measures for high-speed craft
Chapter XI-1 – Special measures to improve maritime safety
Chapter XI-2 – Special measures to strengthen maritime safety
Chapter XII – Additional security measures for bulk carriers
Chapter XIII – Verification of conformity
Chapter XIV – Security measures for ships operating in polar waters
The 1974 Convention was amended several times to keep it updated.
The first version was adopted in 1914, in response to the Titanic disaster, the second in 1929, the third in 1948 and the fourth in 1960.
The amendments adopted by the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) are listed in the MSC Resolutions (link to the SOLAS amendments list from 1981 to 2009).