Notes on reading SOLASby Russell Lunt
Copyright Russell Lunt 2001
The International Convention for the
Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) is one of the oldest conventions of its kind. The
first version was adopted in 1914 following the sinking of the R.M.S. "TITANIC"
with the loss of more than 1500 lives.
Since then, there have been four more
versions of SOLAS – 1929, 1948, 1960, and the present SOLAS 1974 version which
entered into force in 1980. Parts of the Convention apply to every ship,
including small pleasure craft.
A Protocol of 1978 (SOLAS Protocol
1978) dealing with safety matters relating to tankers was adopted by the
International Conference on Tanker Safety and Pollution Prevention, and came
into force in 1981. Over the last 20 years there have been several amendments to
both treaty documents. These amendments are not just to correct the spelling!
Since 1974 the amendments have added extra chapters to SOLAS, for GMDSS, ISM,
etc., and in 1988 a new SOLAS Protocol replaced the Protocol of 1978.
As SOLAS is an agreement between
Governments who 'undertake to give effect to the provisions of the present
Convention and the annex thereto', it is ultimately the flag State under which a
yacht is registered who is responsible for interpretations and implementation of
the Regulations. Yacht owners should always contact their national maritime
administrations for guidance and relevant national rules and regulations.
SOLAS is published as a hard back book
by the International Maritime Organisation, and contains the consolidated text
of both treaty documents, articles, annexes and certificates. It is obviously
easier to work with the most recent edition which incorporates amendments in
force at date of publication. The latest edition – SOLAS Consolidated Edition,
2001 - is just published – January 2001 – and incorporates all amendments in
effect from 1st
Don’t discard your old copy yet. To
identify some requirements applicable to ships constructed before 2001, previous
texts of the 1974 SOLAS Convention, the 1988 SOLAS Protocol and the amendments
to the Convention should be consulted. For instance, special requirements for
existing passenger ships are contained only in part F of chapter II-2 of the
original 1974 SOLAS Convention but neither in chapter II-2 of the 1981
amendments nor in the latest consolidated edition.
The consolidated edition of SOLAS runs
to over 500 pages.
Part 1 - the bulk of the book, up to
page 493 - contains the actual Articles of the International Convention for the
Safety of Life at Sea, 1974, and those of the Protocol of 1988 (this only to
page 15) and the rest is the consolidated text of the annexes to the Convention
and Protocol. Appendices give examples of certificates.
Part 2 – the last 20 pages – contains 3
- Resolution A.883(21): Global and uniform
implementation of the harmonized system of survey and certification (HSSC).
- A very useful list of Certificates and documents
required to be carried on board ships.
- List of resolutions adopted by the SOLAS
We shall concern ourselves with a look
at the consolidated text of the annex to the 1974 SOLAS Convention and the 1988
Protocol, which is divided into 12 chapters. Each chapter contains Regulations,
and the numbering of these Regulations starts again with each chapter. Some
chapters have more than one part, and in this case the Regulation numbers run on
through the different parts.
CHAPTER I General provisions.
Chapter I, Part A –
Application, definitions, etc.
Unless expressly provided otherwise,
SOLAS applies only to ships engaged on an ‘international voyage’ – which is
defined as ‘a voyage from a country to which the present Convention applies to a
port outside such country, or conversely’. (Note that it is ‘expressly provided
otherwise’ in chapter V. The first part of each chapter gives the details of
which types of ship the chapter will apply).
A ‘passenger’ is defined as ‘every
person other than:
(i) the master and the members of
the crew or other persons employed or engaged in any capacity on board a
ship on the business of that ship; and
(ii) a child under one year of age.’
A ‘passenger ship’ is a ship which
carries more than twelve passengers.
A ‘cargo ship’ is any ship which is not
a passenger ship.
The regulations, unless expressly
provided otherwise, do not apply to:
- Ships of war and troopships.
- Cargo ships of less than 500 gross tons.
- Ships not propelled by mechanical means.
- Wooden ships of primitive build.
- Pleasure yachts not engaged in trade.
- Fishing vessels.
Although ‘pleasure yacht’ is not
defined, it follows that if a pleasure yacht is ‘engaged in trade’ it is – for
the purposes of SOLAS – a ‘cargo ship, and if more than 500 gross tons then the
Regulation 5 provides for
Administrations (the Government of the State whose flag the ship is entitled to
fly) to allow any alternative fitting, material, appliance or apparatus to be
fitted or carried, or any other provision to be made in a particular ship, if it
is satisfied by trial thereof or otherwise that the alternative is at least as
effective as that required by the regulations. This gives Administrations fairly
wide powers to accept equivalents, although they are required to pass
particulars of the substitution, together with a report on any trials, to the
IMO for them to circulate to other Contracting Governments.
Chapter 1, Part B –
Surveys and Certificates.
This section (Regulations 6 – 20) deals
with Safety Certificates - who inspects, the types of Certificates issued, the
duration, and measures to be taken in the case that deficiencies are found.
The inspections and surveys are to be
carried out by officers of the Administration, or surveyors nominated by them.
In either case, the Administration assumes full responsibility for the
Until recently, cargo ships were always
issued with 3 separate safety certificates, unlike passenger ships which were
issued with a single Passenger Ship Safety Certificate which was valid for 12
months. This was because the different Cargo Ship Safety Certificates had
different duration’s – one year for the Radio Certificate, two for the Equipment
Certificate and five years for the Construction Certificate. Administrations may
now issue a single Cargo Ship Safety Certificate, valid for up to 5 years, but
like the separate certificates (which still may be issued) subject to various
intermediate survey requirements. The surveys are the same whether 3 separate
certificates or the single certificate is issued.
Cargo Ship Safety Radio Certificate –
issued after survey of the radio equipment and installation (including any used
in life saving appliances). Valid up to 5 years, but subject to annual surveys.
Supplemented by a Record of Equipment.
Cargo Ship Safety Equipment Certificate
– issued after survey of the life saving appliances and arrangements, navigation
equipment, fire safety systems and appliances, fire control plans, embarkation
of pilots, and nautical publications. Lights, shapes and sound signals are also
included in this survey for the purpose of ensuring that they comply fully with
the requirements of SOLAS and the International Regulations for Preventing
Collisions at Sea (COLREGS). Valid up to 5 years, but subject to annual survey,
and a periodical survey (more thorough than an annual survey) in place of the
second or third annual survey. Supplemented by a Record of Equipment.
Cargo Ship Safety Construction
Certificate – issues after survey of hull, machinery and equipment, including
the arrangements, materials and scantlings of the structure, machinery, steering
gear, control systems, electrical installation and other equipment. Valid up to
5 years, but subject to annual surveys, and an intermediate survey in place of
the second or third annual survey.
When an exemption is granted to a ship,
an Exemption Certificate is issued in addition to the Safety Certificate(s).
All Safety Certificates cease to be
valid on change of flag.
Regulation 19 authorises officers duly
appointed by Governments to control visiting ships (Port State Control), the
circumstances under which ships may be detained, and points out that all
possible efforts shall be made to avoid a ship being unduly detained or delayed.
Ships which are unduly detained or delayed shall be entitled to compensation for
any loss or damage suffered.
Chapter 1, Part C –
This part contains only Regulation 21,
which obliges Administrations to conduct investigations of any casualty when it
judges that it may assist in determining any changes in the regulations.
CHAPTER II-1 Construction – Structure,
subdivision and stability, machinery and electrical installations
Chapter II-1, Part A –
Like all the chapters, this starts with
more detail of ships to which the chapter applies. Chapter II-1, unless
expressly provided otherwise, applies to ships built on or after 1 July 1986.
Ships built before need to comply with the earlier version of SOLAS 1974. In
this chapter the expression ‘all ships’ means ships constructed before, on, or
after 1 July 1986. The expression is re-defined in each chapter.
Administrations may exempt individual
or classes of ships from any requirements which may be unreasonable or
unnecessary, given the sheltered nature of voyages by ships which do not proceed
more than 20 miles from land.
There are good definitions in this
part, including ‘permeability of a space’ which is the percentage of that space
which can be occupied by water, measured only to the height of the ‘margin
line’, which is a line drawn at least 76mm below the upper surface of the
bulkhead deck at side. The ‘bulkhead deck’ is the uppermost deck up to which the
transverse watertight bulkheads are carried.
Chapter II-1, Part A1 –
Structure of Ships.
Regulation 3-1 of this part requires
ships shall be designed, constructed and maintained in compliance to the rules
of a classification society (or equivalent national standards).
The rest deals with corrosion
prevention of seawater ballast tanks, safe access to tanker bows, and emergency
towing arrangements on tankers.
Chapter II-1, Part B –
Subdivision and stability.
This part deals with floodable lengths
in passenger ships, permeability in passenger ships, lengths of compartments,
stability of passenger ships in damaged condition and similar subjects – all
with formulae for the computation of criterion of service numeral which
determines the factor of subdivision.
Watertight bulkheads, double bottoms,
watertight doors, openings in shell plating, bilge pumping arrangements,
stability information, damage control plans, and related subjects are covered.
Cargo ships require a watertight collision bulkhead located at a distance from
the forward perpendicular of not less than 5% of the length of the ship. This
would normally be 5% of the ships length back from the bow at the waterline, and
no doors or openings (apart from a single pipe protected with valve) are allowed
to penetrate this bulkhead. Cargo ships built on or after 1 February 1992 are
required to have a double bottom extending from the collision bulkhead to the
afterpeak bulkhead, as far as this is practicable and compatible with the design
and proper working of the ship.
Chapter II-1, Part B-1 –
Subdivision and damage stability of cargo ships.
This part applies to cargo ships over
100m built on or after 1 February 1992, and between 80m and 100m if built on or
after 1 July 1998. The regulations are intended to provide ships with a minimum
standard of subdivision, and deals with the calculation of the required
subdivision index R, the attained subdivision index A (this not to be less than
R), calculation of the factors pi (the probability that only the
compartment or group of compartments under consideration may be flooded,
disregarding any horizontal subdivision) and si, (the probability of
survival after flooding those compartments, including the effects of any
Related regulations deal with
permeability, stability information, openings in watertight bulkheads and
external openings in cargo ships.
Chapter II-1, Part C –
This part applies to passenger ships
and cargo ships. It deals fully with the safety and reliability of machinery.
Some points from this part:
- It requires Administrations to ‘give special
consideration to the reliability of single essential propulsion components’.
- Main Propulsion is to be retained (or restored) in
the event of a breakdown of one of the essential auxiliaries.
- Means to be provided to ensure that the machinery
can be brought into operation from the dead ship condition without external
- Engines with cylinder diameter of 200mm or a
crankcase volume of 0.6m3
to have crankcase explosion relief valves.
- Stopping times, ship headings and distances on
trials, performance with only one engine etc. to be recorded and available on
- Main steering gear to put the rudder from 35deg on
side to 30deg on other side in 28 seconds whilst running ahead at maximum
- Auxiliary steering gear to put the rudder from 15deg
on side to 15deg on the other in 1 minute whilst running ahead at half speed.
- Indicators for propeller speed and direction to be
fitted on the bridge (and engine control room if the ship is built on or after
1 July 1998).
- At least 2 means of communication (one being an
engine-room telegraph) to be provided between navigation bridge and engine
Chapter II-1, Part D –
This part gives quite general
descriptions of much of the installation, and great detail about emergency
lighting, emergency power sources, times emergency equipment is required to
operate, transitional source of emergency power (to operate between shut down of
main power and start of emergency genset), precautions against shock and other
electrical hazards, and type and use of cables. As examples:
- Administrations are required to ensure the
uniformity of electrical installations, and referred to the publications of
the International Electotechnical Commission, especially Publication 92 –
Electrical Installations in Ships.
- The main source of electrical power is to be at
least two gensets, and any one should be able to run the ship.
- Emergency source of power and emergency switchboard
to be provided, and to be located above the uppermost continuous deck, remote
from the main power and switchboard and from the engine room boundaries, and
with ready access to the open deck.
- Emergency source of power, which can be either a
genset or batteries, to supply power for given minimum times to emergency
services including emergency lighting, navigation lights, radio equipment,
navigation equipment, fire detection and alarm, fire pump, emergency bilge
Chapter II-1, Part E –
Additional requirements for periodically unattended
The arrangements provided shall be such
as to ensure that the safety of the ship in all sailing conditions, including
manoeuvring, is equivalent to that of a ship with manned machinery spaces.
Engines of 2,250 kW and above or having
cylinders of more than 300mm bore shall be provided with crankcase oil mist
detectors or engine bearing temperature monitors or equivalent devices.
Increased requirements apply to bilge
pumping, engine controls, communications, alarm systems, automatic machinery
shut-down, generator operation including load shedding to ensure the integrity
of power for essential services.
CHAPTER II-2 Construction – Fire
protection, fire detection and fire extinction.
Chapter II-2, Part A –
Unless expressly provided otherwise,
this chapter applies to ships built on or after 1 July 1998. Ships built before
need to comply with earlier versions of SOLAS. ‘All ships’ means ships built
before or after that date.
The basic principals which are applied
– depending on the type of ship – are:
- Division of the ship into main vertical zones, and
separation of accommodation spaces, by thermal and structural boundaries.
- Restricted use of combustible materials.
- Detection, containment and extinction of any fire in
the zone of origin.
- Protection of means of escape or access for fire
- Ready availability of fire fighting appliances.
- Minimization of possibility of ignition of flammable
Requirements are detailed and provide
exact details of equipment and specifications.
Chapter II-2, Part B –
Fire safety measures for passenger ships.
Full details of bulkheads and fire test
requirements, escape routes, ventilation systems, fixed fire fighting systems –
for passenger ships.
Chapter II-2, Part C –
Fire safety measures for cargo ships.
As above, but for cargo ships. With
restricted use of combustible materials.
Chapter II-2, Part D –
Fire safety measures for tankers.
As may be imagined, a very detailed
CHAPTER III Life-saving appliances and
Chapter III, Part A –
This chapter applies to ships built on
or after 1 July 1998. ‘All ships’ means ships built before, on or after that
date. Ships built prior to that date need to conform to earlier versions of
SOLAS, and phase into the latest requirements as and when equipment is replaced.
There are good definitions in this section, including ‘Length’, ‘Moulded depth’,
and ‘Novel life-saving appliance or arrangement’.
Chapter III, Part B –
Requirements for ships and life-saving appliances.
SECTION I – PASSENGER SHIPS AND CARGO
The paragraph dealing with Radio
life-saving appliances (the requirement to carry VHF radio and Radar
transponders) applies to passenger ships, cargo ships over 500GT, and to a
slightly lesser extent all cargo ships between 300GT and 500GT.
As well as detailing the various
appliances to be carried, sections dealing with Muster lists, Abandon ship drill
procedures, Emergency training and drills, Fire drills, On-board training and
instructions, Operational readiness, Servicing and maintenance of life-saving
appliances and related issues give a very good (and easy to understand) overview
of the types of systems which should be in place on board.
Taking section I as basic requirements
for all ships, sections II, III and IV give the additional requirements for
passenger ships (II), cargo ships (III), and section IV requires life-saving
appliances to comply with the requirements of ‘the Code’ – which is the
International Life-Saving Appliance (LSA) Code adopted by the Maritime Safety
Committee of the IMO by resolution MSC.48(66). It is the responsibility of the
ship to fit equipment approved by the flag State Administration, and the
responsibility of the Administration to ensure that they only approve equipment
which meets the standards set out in ‘the Code’.
SECTION V – MISCELLANEOUS
This is a very useful part which gives
the format for the compilation of the Training manual and on-board training
aids, Instructions for on-board maintenance, and the Muster List and emergency
CHAPTER IV Radiocommunications.
This chapter deals with the Global
Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) and is in three parts:
Chapter IV, Part A –
The requirements of this chapter apply
to passenger ships and cargo ships of 300 GT and upwards. There was a phase-in
period for ships built before February 1995, but this has now passed, and since
February 1999 all of these ships have needed to comply fully with this chapter.
Whilst other chapters give various degrees of latitude to Administrations to
accept equivalents or allow exemptions, it is noted here that ‘Contracting
Governments consider it highly desirable not to deviate from the requirements of
this chapter’. Any partial or conditional exemptions which may be granted to
individual ships needs to be reported to IMO together with the reasons for
granting the exemption.
The four Sea Areas are defined, A1 (VHF
coverage), A2 (MF coverage), A3 (INMARSAT coverage) and A4 (an area outside the
The actual Functional Requirements are
summarised in simple and positive language – ‘Every ship, while at sea, shall be
capable.....of transmitting ship-to-shore distress alerts by at least two
separate and independent means, each using a different Radiocommunication
service.....of receiving shore-to ship distress alerts.....and so on.
Chapter IV, Part B –
Undertakings by Contracting Governments.
This deals with the undertaking from
Contracting Governments to make available shore-based facilities for space and
terrestrial Radiocommunication services, providing service by Satellite, VHF, MF
and HF as may be appropriate.
Chapter IV, Part C –
These 14 pages give the detail of the
equipment to be carried and service provided on board so the ship can comply
with the Functional Requirements as set out in Part A. The concise and (in
general) non-technical descriptions of Equipment, Power sources, Watches to be
maintained, Maintenance requirements and Certification of personnel, are – apart
from being the prime regulations - a valuable introduction to the whole system
of GMDSS to yachtsmen who may be considering fitting GMDSS as a ‘voluntary fit’.
CHAPTER V Safety of Navigation.
This chapter, unless otherwise
expressly provided for in this chapter, applies to all ships on all voyages,
except ships of war and ships solely navigating the Great Lakes of North America
and their connecting and tributary waters.
SOME PARTS OF THIS CHAPTER THEREFORE
APPLY TO ‘PLEASURE YACHTS’ OF ANY SIZE.
The various express provisions within
this chapter which effectively exempt certain types or sizes of ships (including
yachts) from compliance to some of the Regulations in this chapter take a number
of different forms and need to be read with great care. Some of the Regulations
apply to ‘every ship to which Chapter I of SOLAS applies’ – that meaning they
apply to passenger ships, and cargo ships over 500GT, engaged on international
voyages (so other ships do not need to comply). Other descriptions used to
either include or exclude ships from particular Regulations include:
- Ships of less than 150 gross tonnage.
- Ships of 150 gross tonnage and upwards.
- All ships of over 150 gross tonnage, when engaged on
- On every passenger ship to which chapter I applies.
- Ships engaged on voyages in the course of which
pilots are likely to be employed,
- All ships which, in accordance with the present
Convention, are required to carry radio installations.
- Ships of not less than 45m in length.
- ....and lots more.
Apart from the need to comply with
fairly obvious requirements, there are some perhaps less well known requirements
which apply to ALL yachts. Some requirements (well known and not so well known)
which apply to ALL YACHTS are:
- The Master of every ship is bound to report Danger
Messages (e.g. meeting dangerous ice, derelict, or other direct danger to
navigation, or tropical storm, etc.).
- The Master of a ship at sea which is in a position
to be able to provide assistance, on receiving a signal from any source that
persons are in distress at sea, is bound to proceed with all speed to their
assistance.... (Note – this Regulation 10 goes on to provide that in special
circumstances, if the master considers it unreasonable or unnecessary to
proceed to their assistance he must log the reasons and inform search and
rescue services accordingly.)
- The Master shall not be constrained by the
shipowner, charterer or any other person from taking any decision which, in
the professional judgement of the Master, is necessary for safe navigation, in
particular in severe weather and in heavy seas.
- The Contracting Governments undertake, each for its
national ships, to maintain, or, if it is necessary, to adopt, measures for
the purpose of ensuring that, from the point of view of safety of life at sea,
all ships shall be sufficiently and efficiently manned. (Note – in a footnote
attention is drawn to the Principals of safe manning adopted by IMO by
resolution A.890(21) and to IMO Maritime Safety Committee Circular 242 on
single-handed voyages.) Ships to which chapter I of SOLAS applies are required
to carry a Safe Manning Document.)
- Ships engaged on voyages in the course of which
pilots are likely to be employed shall be provided with pilot transfer
arrangements. (Note – there follows 4 pages with the detail of the required
- Within 12 hours before departure, the ship’s
steering gear is to be checked and tested by the ship’s crew. Administrations
may waive this requirement for ships which regularly engage on short voyages,
in which case they should be done at least once a week. Dates of checks and
tests to be logged.
- All ships shall carry adequate and up-to-date
charts, sailing directions, lists of lights, notices to mariners, tide tables,
and all other nautical publications necessary for the intended voyage.
CHAPTER VI (Carriage of cargoes)
and Chapter VII (Carriage of dangerous goods) deal with their
titled subjects, and have almost no relation to yachts – although they do both
apply to cargo ships of less than 500GT. CHAPTER VIII deals with Nuclear ships.
The relevant Nuclear Passenger Ship Safety Certificate and Nuclear Cargo Ship
Safety Certificate are valid for one year.
CHAPTER IX Management for the safe
operation of ships.
This chapter brings into effect the
requirement for the owner or manager of the ship (the ‘Company) and the ship, to
comply with the IMO International Safety Management (ISM) Code and to be issued
with a Document of Compliance (DOC) by the Administration after satisfactory
audit. The ship, which must carry a copy of the DOC, is issued with a Safety
Management Certificate after the Administration verify that the Company and its
shipboard management operate in accordance with the approved safety-management
These regulations already apply to
passenger ships and tankers, and come into force for cargo ships of 500GT and
upwards on 1st
July 2002. Note also that Resolution 3 of the 1994 Conference of Contracting
Governments to the International Convention for the Safety Of Life At Sea
strongly urges Governments to implement as far as practicable the ISM Code for
cargo ships of 150GT and over, and requests Governments to inform IMO of the
action they have taken to implement the ISM Code for those smaller ships.
CHAPTER X Safety measures for
High Speed Craft – as defined in this
chapter and operating no more than 4 or 8 hours (depending if passenger or cargo
craft) from a place of refuge – conforming to the IMO High-Speed Craft (HSC)
Code ‘in its entirety’ shall be deemed to have complied with the requirements of
chapters I to IV and regulation V/12 of SOLAS. The HSC Code is an alternative to
SOLAS in those areas, and drafted to be more suitable for High Speed Craft which
operate in coastal waters and rely on shore based maintenance. The one and a
half pages of this chapter in SOLAS only gives effect to the use of the HSC
Code. The actual Code is a booklet – separately available from IMO – which gives
all the detail.
CHAPTER XI Special measures to enhance
This is a general ‘tidying up’ exercise
dealing with Authorisation of recognised organizations, Enhanced surveys (bulk
carriers and oil tankers), and Port State Control. There is one Regulation which
may apply to yachts, and that is the requirement for all cargo ships (that
includes pleasure yachts engaged in trade) of 300 GT and upwards to be provided
with an IMO identification number.
CHAPTER XII Additional safety measures
for bulk carriers.
Additional requirements relating to
damage stability and structural strength of bulk carriers.
This gives forms of the Safety
Certificates for Passenger and Cargo ships.
SOLAS, Consolidated Edition, 2001
English Language Version IMO-110E
International Maritime Organization, 4,
Albert Embankment, London, SE1 7SR.
Tel: +44 (0) 20 77 35 76 11 Fax: +44 (0)
20 75 87 32 41