The Safety of Life at Sea Convention is an instrument of the IMO which was initially set up in the wake of the Titanic disaster of 1912 and was designed to ensure that enough life saving appliances (LSA) were on board every seagoing vessel. This convention has been amended many times and it now consists of fourteen chapters. The following is a very shortened précis of each chapter.
Chapter I – General Provisions
This chapter includes regulations concerning the survey of the various types of ships and the issuing of documents and port state control procedure for them.
Chapter II-1 – Construction – Subdivision and stability, machinery and electrical installations
This chapter shows how passenger ships are to be divided into several watertight compartments so the vessel will remain afloat and stable after damage.
Damage stability requirements are set out for both passenger and cargo ships. The highest degree of subdivision applies to passenger ships.
The chapter further adopts “Goal-based standards” for oil tankers and bulk carriers ensure ships should have adequate strength, integrity and stability to minimize the risk of loss of the ship or pollution to the marine environment due to structural failure.
Chapter II-2 – Fire protection, fire detection and fire extinction
This chapter sets out the fire safety provisions for all ships and specific measures for passenger ships, cargo ships and tankers. This sets out the required thermal and structural boundaries, which separate accommodation spaces from the remainder of the ship. Additionally the means of escape or of access for fire-fighting purposes and the ready availability of fire-extinguishing appliances are stipulated.
Chapter III – Life-saving appliances and arrangements
The Chapter includes requirements for life-saving appliances and arrangements. The International Life-Saving Appliance (LSA) Code gives specific technical requirements for LSAs and is mandatory.
Chapter IV – Radio communications
The Chapter incorporates the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS). The Chapter is closely linked to the Radio Regulations of the International Telecommunication Union. Whilst SOLAS certification requirements traditionally applies to vessels over 500gt the ITU Safety Radio certificate regulations within GMDSS applies to ships over 300gt.
Chapter V – Safety of navigation
Chapter V identifies certain navigation safety services which should be provided by Contracting Governments and sets forth provisions of an operational nature applicable in general to all ships on all voyages. This is in contrast to the Convention as a whole, which only applies to certain classes of ship engaged on international voyages.
Annex to this chapter deals with the famous Appraisal, Planning, Execution and Monitoring known to all deck officers as the basis of passage planning. It also holds the Masters duty to report.
Metrological services, ship routeing and distress procedure requirements and mandatory carriage of voyage data recorders (VDRs) and automatic ship identification systems (AIS) are also contained here.
Chapter VI – Carriage of Cargoes
The Chapter covers all types of cargo (except liquids and gases in bulk) “which, owing to their particular hazards to ships or persons on board, may require special precautions”. This includes stowage and securing of cargo or cargo units (such as containers) and International Grain Code.
Chapter VII – Carriage of dangerous goods
The regulations are contained in five parts:
Part A – Carriage of dangerous goods in packaged form.
Part A-1 – Carriage of dangerous goods in solid form in bulk.
The above are listed in….
International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code.
Part B (IBC Code). Carriage of dangerous goods in bulk – Chemical International Bulk Chemical Code
Part C (IGC Code). Carriage of dangerous goods – Gas International Gas Carrier Code
Part D (INF Code). Carriage of dangerous goods – Nuclear Packaged irradiated nuclear fuel.
Chapter VIII – Nuclear ships
Gives basic requirements for nuclear-powered ships and is particularly concerned with radiation hazards. It refers to detailed and comprehensive Code of Safety for Nuclear Merchant Ships which was adopted by the IMO Assembly in 1981.
Chapter IX – Management for the Safe Operation of Ships
The Chapter makes mandatory the International Safety Management (ISM) Code, which requires a safety management system to be established by the shipowner or any person who has assumed responsibility for the ship (the “Company”).
Chapter X – Safety measures for high-speed craft
The Chapter makes mandatory the International Code of Safety for High-Speed Craft (HSC Code).
Chapter XI-1 – Special measures to enhance maritime safety
The Chapter clarifies requirements relating to authorization of recognized organizations who carry out surveys and inspections on behalf of flag administrations’. It also outlines regulations for the operation of Port State control.
Chapter XI-2 – Special measures to enhance maritime security
International Ship and Port Facilities Security Code (ISPS Code). Confirms that the Master shall not be constrained by the Company, the charterer or any other person in exercising his professional judgement over security decisions.
As well as the requirement for a vessel to have a Ship Security Assessment and a Ship Security Plan an ISPS certificate is required for all vessels over 500gt. There are also regulations requiring certain equipment to be fitted such as:
- Regulation XI-2/5 ship security alert system.
National governments are also required to supervise security in ports that are engaged in international trade and these include:
- Regulation XI-2/6 port facility security assessments
Chapter XII – Additional safety measures for bulk carriers
The Chapter includes structural requirements for bulk carriers over 150 metres in length. This is intended to reduce the effect of sheer force and bending moments.
Chapter XIII – Verification of compliance
This introduces the IMO Member State Audit Scheme which is mandatory from 1 January 2016. In this countries can choose a partner to audit for compliance in a triangular system but not in a reciprocal fashion. For example Canada may audit the UK and the UK may audit Australia and Australia can audit Canada.
Chapter XIV – Safety measures for ships operating in polar waters
The chapter makes mandatory, from 1 January 2017, the Introduction and part I-A of the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (the Polar Code).