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SOLAS amendments entering into force 1 January 2020

A set of important amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and various codes mandatory under the Convention enter into force on 1 January 2020.

They include:

Addressing lifeboat maintenance – preventing accidents with lifeboats

Amendments to SOLAS regulations III/3 and III/20 make mandatory the Requirements for maintenance, thorough examination, operational testing, overhaul and repair of lifeboats and rescue boats, launching appliances and release gear.

This package of provisions aims to prevent accidents with survival craft and addresses longstanding issues such as the need for a uniform, safe and documented standard related to the servicing of these appliances, as well as the authorization, qualification and certification requirements to ensure that a reliable service is provided.

The intention is to ensure that seafarers are confident that they can fully rely on the survival craft at their disposal, which should comply with applicable SOLAS requirements.

Subdivision and damage stability

A set of amendments to SOLAS chapter II-1 relating to subdivision and  stability enter into force, amending, among other things, the regulations on the required subdivision of passenger ships to increase their safety, as well as regulations related to the stability information to be provided to a ship’s master.

The amendments were developed following a substantive review of SOLAS chapter II-1, focusing in particular on new passenger ships. The review took into account recommendations arising from the investigation into the 2012 Costa Concordia casualty.

Planning for evacuation on cruise ships

Requirements for all new passenger ships carrying more than 36 passengers to be built with evacuation analysis early in the design process come into force.

The amendments to SOLAS regulation II-2/13 extend the requirements for evacuation analysis to all passenger ships, not just ro-ro passenger ships. The analysis should be used to identify and eliminate, as far as practicable, congestion which may develop during an abandonment due to normal movement of passengers and crew along escape routes, including the possibility that crew may need to move along these routes in a direction opposite to the movement of passengers. In addition, the analysis should be used to demonstrate that escape arrangements are sufficiently flexible to provide for the possibility that certain escape routes, assembly stations, embarkation stations or survival craft may not be available as a result of a casualty.

Expanding maritime satellite communications equipment providers 

Amendments to chapter IV of SOLAS and some codes provide for a “recognized mobile satellite service” to be installed for maritime distress and safety communications. Previously, the regulations specified an Inmarsat device.

Full list of SOLAS amendments entering into force on 1 January 2020: 

Amendments adopted by the 96th session of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 96):

  • Amendments to SOLAS regulations III/3 and III/20 to make mandatory the Requirements for maintenance, thorough examination, operational testing, overhaul and repair of lifeboats and rescue boats, launching appliances and release gear.
  •  Amendments to SOLAS regulation II-2/13 to extend the requirements for evacuation analysis to all passenger ships, not just ro-ro passenger ships. (Associated revised guidelines on evacuation analysis for new and existing passenger ships were also approved).
  •  Amendments to chapter 8 of the International Code for Fire Safety Systems (FSS Code) regarding prevention of internal corrosion and clogging of sprinklers and the inclusion of a new chapter 17 in the FSS Code, mandating requirements for helicopter facility foam firefighting appliances.

Amendments adopted by MSC 97:

  • Amendments to SOLAS regulation II-1/3-12 on protection against noise; and regulations II-2/1 and II-2/10 on firefighting and new regulation XI-1/2-1 on harmonization of survey periods of cargo ships not subject to the ESP Code.
  • Amendments to the 2008 International code on Intact Stability (IS Code), relating to ships engaged in anchor handling operations and to ships engaged in lifting and towing operations, including escort towing.
  • Amendments to the International Code for Fire Safety Systems (FSS Code), clarifying the distribution of crew in public spaces for calculating the width of stairways.
  •  Amendments to the International Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Liquefied Gases in Bulk (IGC Code), aligning the wheelhouse window fire-rating requirements in the IGC Code with those in SOLAS chapter II-2.

Amendments adopted by MSC 98:

  • A set of amendments to SOLAS chapter II-1 relating to subdivision and damage stability. The amendments were developed following a substantive review of chapter II-1, focusing in particular on new passenger ships. In conjunction, the MSC adopted revised explanatory notes to SOLAS chapter II-1 subdivision and damage stability regulations and revised guidance for watertight doors on passenger ships which may be opened during navigation.
  • Amendments to SOLAS regulation II-2/3.56, relating to the definition of “vehicle carrier” and adoption of new SOLAS regulation II-2/20.2 on fire safety requirements for cargo spaces containing vehicles with fuel in their tanks for their own propulsion, specifically vehicles which do not use their own propulsion within the cargo space.
  •  Amendments to SOLAS regulation II-2/9.4.1.3 to clarify the requirements for fire integrity of windows on passenger ships carrying not more than 36 passengers and on special purpose ships with more than 60 (but no more than 240) persons on board.
  •  Amendments to SOLAS regulations III/1.4, III/30 and III/37 on damage control drills for passenger ships, to require such drills to take place on all passenger ships from 2020.

Amendments adopted by MSC 99:

  • Amendments to SOLAS regulations II-1/1 and II-1/8-1, concerning computerized stability support for the ship’s master in case of flooding, for existing passenger ships.
  • Amendments to chapter IV of SOLAS, and the appendix to the annex to the Convention, replacing all references to “Inmarsat” with references to a “recognized mobile satellite service” and consequential amendments to the International Code of Safety for High speed Craft, 1994 (1994 HSC Code), the International Code of Safety for High-speed Craft, 2000 (2000 HSC Code).
  • Amendments to update the IMDG Code (Amendment 39-18) in line with the latest recommendations of the United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods, including new provisions regarding IMO type 9 tanks, a set of new abbreviations for segregation groups and special provisions for the carriage of lithium batteries and vehicles powered by flammable liquid or gas.
  •  Amendments to annex 3 to the International Code for the Application of Fire Test Procedures, 2010 (2010 FTP Code), concerning fire protection materials and required approval test methods for passenger ships and high-speed craft.
  •  Amendments to the model forms of the Certificates of Fitness, clarifying the requirement for an approved loading and stability manual/booklet to be supplied to the ship, under the International Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk (IBC Code), International Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Liquefied Gases in Bulk (IGC Code), Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk (BCH Code), Code for Existing Ships Carrying Liquefied Gases in Bulk (EGC Code), and the Code for the  Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Liquefied Gases in Bulk (GC Code).