Amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), which has been ratified by 168 states, have entered into force. All ships constructed from 1 July, 2014, and after must comply, and those with a prior construction date must prove their compliance during a future survey (the date of which varies for each particular amendment). The amendments were agreed upon in 2012 as part of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO’s) goal to improve the safety of passenger ships and the capability for all ships to serve as a rescue asset.

While a number of amendments have entered into force, that which is generally agreed to be of most importance to the maritime industry is that of the recovery of persons from water – a requirement intended to enhance safety at sea and provide support to all types search and rescue operations.

Under the new requirements, ships’ plans and procedures should take into account ‘Guidelines for the development of plans and procedures for recovery of persons from the water’ (MSC.1/Circ.1447). For those ships constructed prior to the 1 July, 2014, enforcement date, compliance must be proven at the vessel’s first periodical or renewal safety equipment survey carried out after 1 July, 2014 – whichever survey comes first. Ships flying flags that have not ratified SOLAS are still encouraged to implement the requirements under a related Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) resolution, also adopted in 2012. The IMO has, in addition, issued A Pocket Guide to Recovery Techniques for seafarers.

Other amendments include the reduction of on-board noise (under regulation II-1/2-12), which demands new ships’ construction meets the noise level requirements outlined in the revised ‘Code on noise levels on board ships’, detailing mandatory maximum noise-level limits for machinery spaces, control rooms, workshops, accommodation and other on-board spaces.

Amendments to SOLAS regulation II-2/10 on fire fighting requires each fire party carries a minimum of two two-way portable radiotelephone apparatus to ensure safe communication. In this case, ships constructed prior to 1 July, 2014, must show compliance no later than its first survey after 1 July, 2018.

Further amendments to on-board training and drills (regulation II-2/15) requires an on-board means of recharging breathing apparatus cylinders used during drills or, as an alternative, a suitable number of spare cylinders, while amendments have also come into force on regulation II-2/20 on the protection of vehicle, and special category spaces related to fixed fire-extinguishing systems (ships constructed before 1 July, 2014, need only comply with the previously applicable requirements). Other amendments include those to the appendix to the SOLAS annex, which replace all forms of certificates and records of equipment, including its 1988 protocol.

All ships constructed from 1 July, 2014, onwards, therefore, must take into consideration the above amendments, while those with a prior construction date have been given more time to meet the requirements; however, these do differ between requirements so it is important to take note of the variances. Full and additional details of the amendments can be found on the IMO website.

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