SOLAS – Safety of Life at Sea: All you need to know!

SOLAS – Safety of Life at Sea: The safety of personnel and the prevention of marine pollution are the most essential considerations for the maritime business. These concerns are required to ensure that cargo transportation and marine operations on high seas are carried out without any disruptions.

In order to accomplish this goal, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) relies on its two very powerful foundations, which are specifically the International Conventions for the Protection of Human Life and the Marine Environment against any and all forms of pollution and accidents. These conventions are known as SOLAS and MARPOL.

What is SOLAS Convention?

“Safety Of Life At Sea” is what SOLAS, an acronym, stands for. The SOLAS Convention, also known as the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, is an international maritime convention that specifies the minimal safety precautions that should be used in the design, installation, and maintenance of merchant ships.

The most recent amended convention for ships, IMO SOLAS 74, covers several regulations under several SOLAS chapters that address safety precautions and procedures from the ship’s design to actual crises such as “Abandon Ship.” Periodically, the convention is modified to conform to the safety standards of the contemporary maritime sector.

This page provides an overview of SOLAS, outlining the many chapters and the regulations they contain, as well as an explanation of the substance of SOLAS chapters and regulations. Links to a number of articles have been supplied by Marine Insight to help readers comprehend the significance of SOLAS and how the regulations in the SOLAS Annexes are applied to seagoing vessels.

SOLAS’s 14 Main Chapters

There are 13 chapters in the international maritime treaty SOLAS 1974, and each chapter has its own set of rules. The list of SOLAS’s fourteen chapters, together with the regulations included within, is as follows:

All merchant ships flying any flag state are required under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974, to adhere to the minimum safety standards outlined in the following chapters:

Surveys and certification of all safety equipment, etc., are covered in Chapter I, General Provisions.

  • Chapter II-1, “Construction,” covers the division and stability, machinery, and electrical installations. It focuses on maintaining the ship’s watertight integrity, particularly for passenger ships.
  • Chapter II-2: Fire protection, identification, and extinction: This chapter describes in detail the methods and precautions for preventing fires in passenger, cargo, and tanker ship engine rooms, as well as in accommodations.
  • Chapter III: Lifesaving Equipment and Setups: Describes all the lifesaving equipment and how to use it in various scenarios.
  • Chapter IV: Radio Communications: Covers GMDSS, SART, EPIRB, and other regulations for both passenger and freight ships.
  • Chapter V: Safety of Navigation: This chapter covers navigation, passage planning, distress signals, and other topics related to seagoing vessels of all sizes, from boats to VLCCs.
  • Oil and gas cargo is not included in Chapter VI, Carriage of Cargoes, which specifies how various types of cargo and containers should be secured and stored.
  • The International Maritime Goods Code is defined in Chapter VII, “Carrying of Dangerous Goods,” which covers the storage and transportation of hazardous materials.
  • Chapter VIII: Nuclear Ships: This chapter contains the ship’s code of safety for nuclear-propelled vessels.
  • Ship owners and operators can find a detailed explanation of the International Safety Management Code in Chapter IX, Management for the Safe Operation of Ships.
  • The safety code for high-speed craft is outlined in Chapter X, Safety Measures for High-Speed Craft.
  • Chapter XI-1 & 2: Special measures to improve marine safety: This chapter provides an overview of the ISPS code, additional operational requirements, and a special and improved survey for safe operation.
  • Additional safety precautions for bulk carriers are included in Chapter XII, which also includes safety standards for bulk carriers longer than 150 meters.
  • Chapter XIII: Compliance Verification
  • Safety Procedures for Ships Operating in Polar Waters, Chapter XIV

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What Does Every SOLAS Chapter Aim to Do?

Chapter I of SOLAS

General Provisions, Surveys, and Certification of All Safety Items, Structure, Machinery, etc. are incorporated in SOLAS Chapter 1.

Three sections comprise this chapter: Part A, Part B, and Part C.

Five regulations in Part A clarify the “Application” of this chapter in various ship types as well as the “Definition” of various terminology used in the chapter. Since not all types of vessels may be covered by the law, a separate section titled “Exceptions” and “Exemptions” is also included.

Regardless of a ship’s location or country, every SOLAS chapter covers a minimum standard. It is likely that the ship may not be able to use materials or equipment that are available in one country in another. Additionally, a section labeled “Equivalent” is included to address similar circumstances.

The significant laws about surveys and certificates that seagoing ships must possess to be considered compliant with SOLAS are found in Part B. Part B has fifteen regulations related to this. Regulations six through eleven outline the various survey requirements for other ships, machinery, equipment, etc., as well as the procedures for doing repairs and the types of surveys that must be completed.

Regulations 12 through 18 delineate the various prerequisites for certification acquired following surveys.

rule 19 – Control: This rule outlines the authority of local governments, such as the coast guard and port states, to examine foreign ships while they are at sea in order to guarantee their safety. It also describes how to exert control and the action that the government authorities should take to notify the parties involved (next port of call, owner, class, etc.).

Regulation 20: Privileges: This regulation specifies which privileges the ship is entitled to, based on the certificates it possesses.

Chapter 1’s Part C comprises a single regulation, namely. Regulation 21, specifies what information must be gathered and forwarded, as well as how a contracting government may investigate the ship that was engaged in an incident and any casualties.

Chapter II-1 of SOLAS

Building – Subdivision and stability, machinery, and electrical installations: This section of SOLAS, which consists of seven parts, addresses the watertight integrity of the ship, including the passenger’s vessel. It explains the need for structural, mechanical, electrical, and other safety requirements.

Three regulations in Part A describe the “Application” of this chapter on ships based on how their keel is laid. The “Definition” of various terms used in the chapter is explained in the regulations.

Regulations describing the requirements for the ship’s structure, such as protective coating, towing plans, deck equipment fittings, construction and drawings, etc., are contained in Part A-1. It also comprises the structure access manual, which has information about the structure, including access plans, and the regulation on granting access to various sections of oil tankers and bulk carriers. Included is also the process for building a ship that conforms to the noise protection rule.

This regulation’s Part B explains the criteria for stability and watertight integrity. The regulations (Regulations 5 to 8) under Part B 1 specify the prerequisites for preserving the intact stability of the passenger and freight ships. It also specifies how the master must be provided with information regarding the stability of the vessel, including how to compute the stability factors under various circumstances.

Part B 2 consists of four regulations (Regulations 9 through 17) that address the watertight integrity of ships (both passenger and cargo ships) by defining the requirements for the construction and testing of watertight and other critical bulkheads, as well as the requirement that ships other than tanker ships have a double bottom.

The subdivision load line assignment requirement for passenger ships is described in Part B 3.

This chapter’s Part B 4 consists of seven regulations (Rates 19 through 25) that outline the stability management requirements and provide information for both cargo and passenger ships on inspections, preventative measures, damage control drills, and information.

The engine room’s various mechanical installations are included in Part C, together with the regulations 26 through 39 requiring emergency installations for passenger ships.

This chapter’s Part D (rules 40 to 45) covers the electrical installation requirements for passenger and freight ships, as well as electrical safety and risks and emergency plans and sources.

The need for unattended machinery space under rules 46 to 54 is made clear in Part E.

This chapter’s Part F describes the alternate layout and design for the ship’s electrical and mechanical systems in accordance with Regulation 55. It also describes the low flashpoint fuel system’s distribution and storage requirements.

Part G provides an explanation of the rules 56 and 57’s application and requirements for ships that use low flash point fuels.

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Chapter II-2 of SOLAS

This chapter describes the methods and procedures for preventing fires in passenger, cargo, and tanker ship engine rooms, as well as in accommodations and cargo spaces. This chapter explains the different requirements for installed fire safety systems on a ship and is broken down into seven sections.

Regulations 1 through 3 in Part A describe the “Application” of this chapter on shipbuilding. The goal and functional requirements of this chapter, as well as the “Definition” of several terminology used in it, are explained in these regulations.

The requirements for preventing fire and explosion on cargo ships, including tankers, are outlined in Part B of this chapter. From Regulation 4 to Regulation 6, there are three regulations. Regulation 4 describes the procedures and restrictions on the use of fuel and lubricant oils on board, as well as the measures taken to avoid fires in the tanker ship’s cargo sections, in order to prevent the ignition of a combustible source that may be present on boats.

The need to control the air supply, oil supply, or heat source (using protective materials like insulation, linings, etc.) in the potentially hazardous space is outlined in Regulation 5, which also stipulates that any one side of the fire triangle must be cut off.

This part’s Regulation 6 is all about lowering the risks to human life posed by smoke and harmful gases released by products (such paint, varnish, etc.).

Part C of this chapter consists of five regulations (Regulations 7 through Regulation 11) that address the need to put out a fire as quickly as possible. These regulations address the need for smoke and flame detection and control, containment requirements, maintaining the structural integrity of the area to prevent the spread of the fire, and the use of firefighting systems and equipment on ships’ machinery, passenger accommodations, and cargo areas.

The topic of Part D is how passengers or sailors should flee in the event of a fire or other emergency. The requirements for methods of escape for various ship types (cargo, passenger, RoRo, etc.), as well as the tools and systems that aid in escaping from hazardous environments, are explained in Regulation 13.

Regulations 14 through 16 in Part E of Chapter II-2 provide details on how to maintain the fire detection, fighting, and control systems aboard cargo ships, including tankers and passenger ships. It also explains why fire safety drills and instruction are necessary on board ships. The fire safety pamphlet is the subject of Regulation 16, which states that all ships must have one on board.

This chapter’s Part F describes the alternate layout and design for the ship’s fire safety in accordance with Regulation 17.

Part G provides specific requirements for operations performed on tanker and bulk carrier ships, including the use of helicopters (Regulation 18). These requirements include information on various construction, safety, and firefighting arrangements. Safety precautions are outlined in Regulation 19 for the transportation of hazardous materials in bulk, tanker, and Roro ships.

Regulation 20 addresses the prevention, detection, and containment of fire aboard ships transporting vehicles as cargo and passengers. Passenger-focused regulations 21, 22, and 23 outline the procedures a passenger ship must adhere to in the event of an aboard fire in order to protect both the passengers and the ship from a serious mishap.

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Chapter III of SOLAS

Lifesaving equipment and arrangements: This chapter covers every lifesaving device and how to use it in various scenarios depending on the type of ship.

There are three parts to this chapter. Five regulations in Part A clarify the “Application” of this chapter in various ship types as well as the “Definition” of various terminology used in the chapter. Since not all types of vessels may be covered by the law, a separate section titled “Exceptions” and “Exemptions” is also included. Procedures for production testing and onboard testing are also described.

32 regulations (numbers 6 through 37) make up Part B and address the lifesaving equipment requirements for both passenger and freight ships. The communication devices (radio, pyrotechnics, etc.) used in safety and life-saving emergencies on vessels are described in Regulation 6.

The requirements for personal lifesaving equipment, including immersion suits, lifebuoys, and lifejackets, are outlined in Regulation 7.

Instructions on muster station, survival craft operation and man, and their embarkation preparations outlining the various criteria are contained in Regulations 8 through 11.

The location of survival craft on a cargo ship—aside from free fall lifeboats—is specifically covered under Regulation 12. The stowage and arrangements needed for the lifeboat, liferaft, marine evacuation system, recovery boat on the ship, and man overboard operation are described in detail in regulations 13 to 17.

The requirements for line-throwing appliances on board a ship are outlined in Regulation 18. Regulation 19 addresses the onboard crew’s needs for several types of training and drills.

Regarding operating readiness, maintenance, and surveys of survival crafts and other lifesaving equipment on board, Regulation 20 was applicable to all ships.

Regulations 21 through 30 outline the additional requirements for passenger ships regarding survival kits and all lifesaving equipment on board, along with passenger drills and helicopter operations (ro-ro passenger ships measuring 130 meters in length must have a helicopter landing area).

The additional requirements for cargo ships regarding survival crafts and all lifesaving equipment on board are outlined in Regulations 31 to 34.

The ship’s training manual and other onboard training resources are available, and regulations 35 to 37 include a variety of instructions for onboard maintenance, muster lists, and other related matters.

This chapter’s Part C describes the alternate layout and design for the ship’s lifesaving equipment in accordance with Regulation 38.

Chapter IV of SOLAS

Radio communications: This chapter covers the specifications for several radio communication devices, including GMDSS, SART, EPIRB, and others, that are utilized on board passenger and freight ships. Part A, Part B, and Part C are the three sections that make up this chapter.

Regulations 1 through 4 in Part A describe the “Application” of this chapter. The rules also define terms that are used in the chapter and provide an explanation of its goal and functional needs. Additionally, it contains information on GMDSS satellite operators as well as the exemptional clause.

Section B included Regulation 5, which provided an explanation of radiocommunication services and GMDSS identification by the contracting authority.

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Part C, which consists of 13 regulations, insists on the radio equipment required being ship-based. The criteria for radio installations on all kinds of ships are outlined in Regulation 6. Different radio equipment minimum criteria for usage on ships are outlined in Regulation 7.

Sea zones A1, A2, A3, and A4 require radio installation capacity to initiate ship-to-shore communications and alerts, as outlined in Regulations 8 to 11.

The additional responsibilities of the officer using radio communication equipment during a watch are outlined in Regulation 12.

The energy supply for all radio communication equipment, including battery power and an emergency reserve source, is described in full in Regulation 13.

The specifics of the maintenance and performance requirements for radiocommunication equipment are provided in Regulations 14 and 15.

The requirements for radio staff qualification and various records and logs, which must be updated in the ship log system, are outlined in Regulations 16, 17, and 18.

Chapter V of SOLAS

Navigational safety: This chapter’s thirty-five regulations cover everything from route planning to distress signals for seagoing vessels of all kinds, from boats to VLCCs.

The “Application” of this chapter on navigation safety is explained in Regulations 1 through 3. The rules also specify the goal and functional requirements of this chapter, as well as the “Definition” of certain terms used in it. It also contains the clause allowing the administration to exempt a conforming ship from certain duties.

The many navigational and mineralogical service alerts that are necessary for a navigating officer to have in order to create a safe travel plan are listed in Regulations 4 and 5.

Regulations 6, 7, 8, and 9 are concerned with services like the use of lifesaving signals, search and rescue operations (in the event that a ship issues a distress alert), ice patrol services for safe navigation in the North Atlantic, and hydrographic services (for the contracting government’s compilation and publication of hydrographic data).

Regulation 10 outlines the standards for ships’ routing systems in order to ensure safe and effective navigation.

A reporting system, whereby the seagoing ship reports to the relevant authorised entity, is required to support maritime and environmental safety, according to Regulation 11.

The demand for Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) in the coastal area, channel, port proximity, and marine traffic region is outlined in Regulation 12 and is carried out by the contracting government.

The function of the contracting government in the planning, implementation, and management of aids to navigation is outlined in Regulation 13.

Regulation 14 outlines the crew performance standards and minimum manning requirements for seagoing ships.

Regulation 15 provides information on the layout of navigational systems and equipment as well as bridge design and procedure.

Regulations 16 and 17 stipulate that navigation equipment must be maintained and that it must be electromagnetically compatible.

The conditions for surveys, approval standards, and performance benchmarks for navigational devices and systems, including VDR, are outlined in Regulation 18.

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According to Regulation 19, a navigational system and equipment must be carried on board the ship in accordance with the gross tonnage capacity of the vessel and the period of construction. It also explains why long-range ship tracking and identification are necessary.

The purpose of the voyage data recorder on board a ship is to support causation investigations, as stipulated in Regulation 20.

The International Code of Signals that a radio installation aboard a ship must adhere to is described in full in Regulation 21.

Regulation 23 describes the pilot transfer arrangement, and Regulation 22 discusses the visibility requirement from the ship’s bridge glass.

Using a direction and track control system when the ship is in heavy traffic or has limited vision is explained in Regulation 24.

The requirements for the electrical power source, testing, and drilling for steering gear systems are outlined in Regulations 25 and 26.

The nautical publications and maps that are provided on board ships for passage and journey are covered in Regulation 27.

Regulation 28 outlines the specifics of the documentation that the ship’s navigation officer must maintain for each and every nautical activity.

Regulation 29 stipulates that the ship’s officer must be aware of the various distress signals that can be utilized to save lives. The operational restrictions on passenger ships with relation to safe navigation are listed in Regulation 30.

The master of the ship is required by Regulations 31, 32, 33, and 34 to send a danger message (while encountering any dangerous navigation situation to the contracting government using a message or International code of Signal) and to notify the authorities of the type of information that must be sent.

Regulation 35 severely bans the use of distress signals for any reason other than that which is stated in the regulations above. It also outlines the obligations/procedures for supporting the ship in danger and how to avoid such a scenario that can become a risk.

Chapter VI of SOLAS

Carriage of Cargoes and Oil Fuel: This section of SOLAS, which is further broken down into three parts, Part A, Part B, and Part C, specifies how various types of cargo and containers are stored and secured, however it excludes cargo containing oil and gas.

Regulations 1 through 5 are found in Part A. Regulation 1 defines terms used in the chapter, defines its “Application,” and outlines the conditions for transporting solid cargo other than grain.

The information sharing between the shipper and the master on the type of loaded cargo is outlined in Regulation 2.

The requirement for an oxygen analyzer and other gas detection equipment to keep an eye on solid cargoes releasing flammable or poisonous gases is explained in Regulation 3.

The specifics of applying pesticides on ships for fumigation are outlined in Regulation 4.

Regulation 5 describes how to stow and secure cargo, outlines the MSDS requirements for oil fuel carried on board a ship, and clarifies why mixing bulk liquid cargo and production operations during maritime journeys is forbidden.

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The particular provisions for hauling solid bulk cargoes are listed in Part B of this SOLAS chapter. Regulations 6 and 7 describe how to accept a shipment and load and unload such cargo.

The requirements for the carriage of grains under Regulations 8 and 9 are covered in Part C. These regulations define the International Grain Code and other words that are relevant to grains that do not meet the requirements to be carried on board a ship as grain cargo.

Chapter VII of SOLAS

Carriage of Dangerous Goods: This chapter, which is further divided into four parts, Parts A, B, C, and D, defines the International Maritime Goods Code for the storage and transportation of dangerous goods.

Section A gives details on the seven regulations that govern the carrying of dangerous goods in packaged form. Sections 1, 2, and 3 define terms used in the chapter and explain their “Application” as well as the prerequisites for carrying dangerous goods in packaged form.

In addition to explaining the documentation and stowage with segregation requirements for such cargoes, Regulation 7 addresses the carriage of dangerous goods in a solid bulk form, including the reporting of incidents and other conditions pertaining to the dangerous goods carried in solid bulk form. It also defines the terms used under this regulation and applies the times.

The structure and apparatus for transporting hazardous liquid chemicals in large quantities are described in Part B of this chapter. Regulations 8, 9, and 10 specify the meaning of various terms used in the chapter as well as its “Application” and the specifications for chemical tankers transporting such loads.

This chapter’s Part C describes the design and apparatus for transporting liquified gas in bulk as cargo; Regulations 11, 12, and 113 define terms used in the chapter, describe the “Application” of gas ships, and outline the specifications for gas tankers transporting such cargoes.

Chapter VIII of SOLAS

Nuclear ships: This chapter contains the nuclear-propelled ship’s code of safety.

Twelve regulations make up this chapter, which covers topics such as application procedures, exclusions, approvals, and specifications (for reactor installations), safety against radiation, safety evaluation, operating manual, surveys, and certifications, controlling authority, and what to do in the event that radiation exposure results in any kind of radiation-related casualty.

Chapter IX of SOLAS

Oversight for the Secure Movement of Watercraft

There is a detailed description of the International Safety Management Code for ship owners and operators. The “Application” of SOLAS Chapter 9 and the “Definition” of various terminology used in the chapter are explained in depth in Regulations 1 and 2 of this chapter.

Regulation 3 stipulates that the ISM code must be observed, and Regulation 4 lists the necessary certifications, such as DOC, SMC, and so on.

The upkeep of conditions and verification & control are listed in Regulations 5 and 6, respectively.

Chapter X of SOLAS

Precautions for high-speed craft safety

This chapter, which is solely devoted to high-speed crafts, explains the safety standards, includes three regulations that interpret various language used in the chapter, and discusses the “Application” of high-speed crafts in addition to the requirements for them.

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Chapter XI of SOLAS

There are two sections in this chapter.

Section one, i.e. Special measures to improve maritime safety, such as enhanced and special surveys for safe operation, are included in Chapter XI-1. The regulations for special rules to enhance maritime security are listed in Chapter XI-2, the second half of this SOLAS chapter.

Section XI-1 is composed of seven rules. Information regarding an approved organization’s authorization is provided in Regulation 1. The requirements for the enhanced survey for oil tankers and bulk carriers, as well as the standardization of survey durations for ships exempt from the ESP code, are compiled in Regulation 2.

The ship identity number and firm cum owner identification number are provided under Regulation 3.

The impact of port state control on operating requirements is described in Regulation 4.

The continuous synopsis record, which is given onboard as a historical summary of the ship’s information, is covered under Regulation 5.

The additional requirement for looking into events and causalities in the maritime domain is outlined in Regulation 6.

Regulation 7 specifies what atmosphere testing equipment is needed for enclosed rooms in order to measure things like carbon monoxide, combustible gases, oxygen, and H2S.

The marine security regulations that the ship, port, shipowner, contracting government, and authorities must all abide by are covered in Chapter XI-2. There are thirteen regulations in this SOLAS chapter. Regulations 1 and 2 define terms used in the chapter and provide information on how the chapter should be utilized.

The contracting government’s commitment to marine security is the main topic of Regulation 3.

Following Regulation 4, which outlines the requirements for businesses and ships to adhere to the ISP’s code, is Regulation 5, which addresses the particular accountability of businesses for maritime security.

The Ship Security Alert System (SSAS) is a crucial requirement for all seagoing ships, as outlined in Regulation 6.

Threats to the vessels are covered by Regulation 7, which requires the contracting governments to establish a security level.

Regulation 8 outlines the master’s discretion in considering the security and safety of the ship.

Rule 10 lays forth the pertinent specifications for port facilities under the ISP’s code, whereas Regulation 9 describes the compliance and control measures a ship must display while in port.

The contracting government and administration’s alternative and equivalent security arrangement is covered in Regulations 11 and 12.

The various pieces of information that must be shared with the ship and ship manager are covered by Regulation 13.

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Chapter XII of SOLAS

Extra safety precautions for bulk carriers: This chapter contains the safety regulations for bulk carriers longer than 150 meters. There are 14 regulations in total.

The “Definition” of various terms used in the chapter and the “Application” of this chapter are described in detail in Regulations 1, 2, and 3, which are followed by the survey’s implementation schedule based on the date of construction.

rule 4: This rule explains the damage stability standards for bulk carriers.

The structural strength and other requirements for bulk carrier ships are outlined in Regulations 5 and 6.

Following Regulation 7, which addresses the bulk carriers’ surveys and maintenance needs, is Regulation 8, which provides bulk carriers with compliance information.

The bulk carrier ships that are not able to adhere to rule four due to the layout of their cargo containers are the subject of regulation 9. The necessity to declare the solid bulk cargo density is listed in Code 10.

The loading instruments used to load cargo onto bulk carrier ships are described in full in Regulation 11.

The requirements for installing a water intrusion alarm in a bulk carrier ship’s holds, ballast area, and other dry areas are outlined in Regulation 12.

Regulation 13 describes why pumping systems are required to empty the ballast tanks and applies to all bulk carriers, regardless of when they were built.

The prohibition on bulk carrier ships operating with an empty cargo hold is the main topic of Regulation 14.

The two SOLAS new chapters listed below were added recently, in addition to the 12 SOLAS chapters mentioned above.

Chapter XIII of SOLAS

Verification of Compliance: This chapter, which was adopted on May 22, 2014, mandates that all contracting Parties submit to recurring audits by the authorized organization following the audit standard to confirm adherence to and execution of the current Convention.

This chapter’s rules 1 through 3 describe the “Definition” of various terms used in the chapter and provide information about its “Application.” The verification method for contracting governments is then covered.

Chapter XIV of SOLAS

Safety Measures for Ships Operating in Polar Waters: As the name implies, SOLAS chapter 14 addresses ships that are required to get a Polar Ship Certificate to operate in the Arctic and Antarctic.

This Code, which went into effect on January 1st, 2017, provided shipowners and ship management with instructions on how to get their vessels compliant with the various categories. One of the most recent chapters added to SOLAS in 2017 is this one.

It consists of four regulations, the first two of which define the terms used in this chapter and describe how this code is to be applied.

Regulation 4 outlines the conditions for an alternative design and arrangement for ships operating in the Arctic and Antarctic, while Regulation 3 describes the requirements for ships to which this chapter applies.

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