The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) is the most important treaty protecting the safety of merchant ships. The first version of the treaty was passed in 1914 in response to the sinking of the RMS Titanic. 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.
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 1960 Convention — which was activated in 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. 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).
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. The latest Convention in 1974 therefore included the "tacit acceptance" procedure whereby amendments enter into force by default unless nations file objections that meet a certain number or tonnage. SOLAS divides international waters into regions.
Please contact us to find out how the Solas regulations apply to your business. We will advise you on the correct procedures to ensure you meet all your legal obligations.