The SOLAS Convention

The Safety Of Life At Sea Convention, known as SOLAS is usually consider the bible of the Merchant navy.

On this blog we will use many Codes or regulations related to the SOLAS. For this reason, today we are going to see how this Convention is structured.

Although the Convention itself includes other chapters and annexs, here we are going to enumerated the fourteen chapters of the SOLAS (soon it will be fifteen with the inclusion of the Chapter XIII regarding Polar navigation):

  • Chapter I. General provisions.
    • Part A: Applications, definitions, etc. (Regulations 1 – 5).
    • Part B: Surveys and certificates (Regulations 6 – 20).
    • Part C: Casualties (Regulation 21).
  • Chapter II-1. Construction – Structure, subdivision and stability, machinery and electrical installations.
    • Part A: General (Regulations 1 – 3).
    • Part A-1: Structure of ships (Regulations 3-1 – 3-12).
    • Part B: Subdivision and stability (Regulation 4).
    • Part B-1: Stability (Regulations 5 – 8-1).
    • Part B-2: Subdivision, watertight an weathertight integrity (Regulations 9 – 17-1).
    • Part B-3: Subdivision load line assignment for passenger ships (Regulation 18).
    • Part B-4: Stability management (Regulations 19 – 25).
    • Part C: Machinery installations (Regulations 26 – 39).
    • Part D: Electrical installations (Regulations 40 – 45).
    • Part E: Additional requirements for periodically unattended machinery spaces (Regulations 46 – 54).
    • Part F: Alternative design and arrangements (Regulation 55).
  • Chapter II-2. Construction – Fire protection, fire detection and fire extinction.
    • Part A: General (Regulations 1 – 3).
    • Part B: Prevention of fire and explosion (Regulations 4 – 6).
    • Part C: Suppression of fire (Regulations 7 – 11).
    • Part D: Escape (Regulations 12 – 13).
    • Part E: Operational requirements (Regulations 14 – 16).
    • Part F: Alternative design arrangements (Regulation 17).
    • Part G: Special requirements (Regulations 18 – 23).
  • Chapter III. Life-saving appliances.
    • Part A: General (Regulations 1 – 5).
    • Part B: Requirements for ships and life-saving appliances (Regulations 6 – 37).
    • Part C: Alternative design and arrangements (Regulation 38).
  • Chapter IV. Radiocommunications.
    • Part A: General (Regulations 1 – 4-1).
    • Part B: Undertakings by Contracting Governments (Regulations 5 – 5-1).
    • Part C: Ship requirements (Regulations 6 – 18).
  • Chapter V. Safety of navigation (Regulations 1 – 35).
  • Chapter VI. Carriage of cargoes and oil fuels.
    • Part A: General provisions (Regulation 1 – 5-2).
    • Part B: Special provisions for solid bulk cargoes (Regulations 6 – 7).
    • Part C: Carriage of grain (Regulations 8 – 9).
  • Chapter VII. Carriage of dangerous goods.
    • Part A: Carriage of dangerous goods in packaged form (Regulations 1 – 6).
    • Part A-1: Carriage of dangerous goods in solid form in bulk (Regulations 7 – 7-5).
    • Part B: Construction and equipment of ships carrying dangerous liquid chemicals in bulk (Regulations 8 – 10).
    • Part C: Construction and equipment of ships carrying liquefied gases in bulk (Regulation 11 – 13).
    • Part D: Special requirements for the carriage of packaged irradiated nuclear fuel, plutonium and high-level radioactive wastes on board ships (Regulations 14 – 16).
  • Chapter VIII. Nuclear ships (Regulations 1 – 12).
  • Chapter IX. Management for the safe operation of ships (Regulations 1 – 6).
  • Chapter X. Safety measures for high-speed craft (Regulations 1 – 3).
  • Chapter XI-1. Special measures to enhance maritime safety (Regulations 1 – 6).
  • Chapter XI-2. Special measures to enhance maritime security (Regulations 1 – 13).
  • Chapter XII. Additional safety measures for bulk carriers (Regulations 1 – 14).
  • Chapter XIII. Verification of compliance. This chapter was made mandatory on 1 January 2016.
  • Chapter XIV. Safety measures for ships operating in polar waters. This is the newest chapter in the SOLAS convention and it makes mandatory from 1 January 2017.

The IMO Assembly

In the International Maritime Organization, the highest governing body is the Assembly.

It is formed for all members of the Organization and they meet once each two years normally, but the Assembly will meet on an extraordinary session when necessary.

Once of its function is to approve the work program of the Organization and to vote for the budget of the Organization. That way, it determines the financial arrangements for the IMO.

Apart for this, the Assembly is also in charge of selecting the members of the Council. This selection will be maintained until the next ordinary meeting.

By the time I am writing this post, the last session of the Assembly was from the 27th of November to the 6th of December, and it was the number 30.

On this session they adopted the strategic plan from 2018 until 2023.

What does that mean?

It means that they set the direction that has to be followed by the Organization on the following years.

For example, once of the things that everybody is paying more attention to is to respond to climate change, so, on its session, they set a point inside the strategic plan which is to respond to climate change.

  • Respond to climate change – developing appropriate, ambitious and realistic solutions to minimize shipping’s contribution to air pollution and its impact on climate change.

Apart of this strategic plan, the Assembly also did some announcements, like the one where they welcomed the second phase of the Polar code, or the one where they condemned the launching of missiles without warning.

Finally, on the memo, we can find a list of the resolutions of the Assembly adopted by this governing body.

To sum up

So, according to what we have seen already on this blog, we can summarize that the Assembly is the highest governing body of the IMO.

The Assembly chooses the Council, which is the executive body of the IMO, and it is in charge of supervising the work of the Organization.

The Council delegates into the Committees for fulfilling the tasks of the Organization. Those jobs are divided into five main committees.

Also, finally, there are some subcommittees that will help the main committees to fulfill their tasks.

The IMO Council

The IMO Council is the executive body of the Organization.

This organ is responsible for supervising the work of the Organization, that is, the work of the Committees. As we will see in the next post, they depend on the Assembly, because it is the highest governing body of the IMO.

In order to achieve its purpose, the Council meets twice a year (and of course whenever it is necessary on an Extraordinary Session). Those meetings are hold on July and on December every year.

Who forms it?

The IMO Council is formed by 40 members of the Organization and it’s elected by the Assembly every two years. Those 40 members are classified on the following categories:

  1. Category a: 10 states with the largest interest in providing international shipping services.
  2. Category b: 10 states with the largest interest in international seaborne trade.
  3. Category c: 20 states nor elected on any on the other categories with special interests in maritime transport or navigation; or those whose election to the Council will ensure the representation of all major geographic areas of the world.

What do they do?

As we said before, the Council is in charge for supervising the work of the IMO and it’s the executive body of the Organization but, can we be more specific?

  • The Council will submit to the Assembly the work program of the Committees.
  • They will submit for approval to the Assembly the budget of the Organization.
  • The Council will elect the Secretary-General.
  • Between every Assembly session, the Council will be the head body of the Organization except on those issues regarding recommending to Members for adoption of regulations and guidelines.

The IMO Committees

Apart of the main committees in the IMO: MSC and MEPC; there are other three which are very important:

  • The Legal Committee.
  • The Technical Cooperation Committee.
  • The Facilitation Committee.

Who forms it?

All of them consist on all members of the IMO, as happened with the MSC and the MEPC.

As we pointed out in the last post, the fact that all members are part of the committee is a good idea because is the majority who decide what is going to happen, and not only a few elected ones.

What are they in charge of?    

  • The Legal Committee.

After the Torrey Canyon disaster, the IMO founded this Committee for taking care of any legal issue related with any IMO instrument or legislation in the scope of the Organization.

On each session of this Committee, which are carried out twice a year, they deal with any legal situation that has been sent to the IMO.

  • The Technical Cooperation Committee.

This Committee was created for dealing with countries with problems for implement the IMO instruments.

Even though it is the responsibility of the Governments to implement the Codes and legislation of the Organization, they may not have the technical knowledge for carrying out this task, that is why this Committee exists.

This was established as a subsidiary body of the Council from 1969 until 1984, when it became a Committee.

  • The Facilitation Committee.

As happened with the Technical Cooperation Committee, this was created as a subsidiary body of the Council on 1972, and became a Committee on 2008.

This Committee is in charge of the Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic Convention, meaning that they are in charge of eliminated any unnecessary document related to the International Shipping Industry.

The Marine Environment Protection Committee

We saw on the last post that along with the Maritime Safety Committee, the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC from now on) are the most important OMI’s Committees since they are in charge of the most important tasks in the Organization.

If the MSC was in charge of the Safety at sea, this Committee is in charge of the protection of the seas, avoiding and controlling pollution from ships.

Who forms it?

As happens in the MSC, this Committee is open to all members of the IMO.

In my opinion the fact that all members are part of the Committee is a good thing even though coming to terms about something can be really difficult sometimes.

As we will see, Assembly and Council are form by elected members and they change after a few years. But implement this structure in all committees could be messy with so many elections being carried out.

What are they in charge of?

Although MARPOL 73/78 was approved by the Assembly, circulars and resolutions about this Code and about pollution prevention at sea belongs to the MEPC.

An example of those resolutions we can mention the Resolution MEPC.282(70) about the SEEMP


The MSC and the MEPC don’t work alone. They count with the assistance of a number of sub-committees (SC from now on) which is also open to all member states.

  • SC on Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW).
  • SC on Implementation of IMO Instruments (III).

The focus on the certification, survey, casualties and Port State Control. They also help to Member States with their difficulties in the implementation and enforcement of IMO.

  • SC on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR).
  • SC on Pollution Prevention Response (PPR).
  • SC on Ship Design and Construction (SDC).
  • SC on Ship Systems and Equipment (SSE).
  • SC on Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC).

The Maritime Safety Committee

As we saw on the last post, the IMO have several committees. Five of them are considered the main ones, while the others are called sub-committees.

The Maritime Safety Committee is, along with the Maritime Environment Protection Committee, the most important committee of the IMO due to the task they are in charge of.

Since the IMO was created, the main aim of it was the maritime safety, and this function was assigned to the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC from now on).

Who forms it?

All members of the IMO can be members of the MSC. So on each session, all members of the Organization can participate for implement changes on the codes or approving new ones.

What are they in charge of?

If you have ever studied something related with safety at sea or read an International Code published by the IMO, for sure you would have find a statement similar to this one: “Amended by resolution MSC.XXX(YY)”. Well, this “MSC” means that this was approved by the Committee we are speaking about here.

Even though this could sound logical, it is needed to point that this is the Committee that regulates the SOLAS Convention.

They are responsible for many resolutions as the resolution MSC. 353(92) regarding the ISM Code.

We will see all of them (and so other more) deeply here in further posts.

Please don’t think that the MSC only does resolutions, they also publish circulars. A circular is a document including information regarding safety. This won’t be exactly “mandatory” but, as we will see when we will analyze the ISM Code, would be added by regulations in some important documents maritime safety related (like the Safety Management Manual). An example of those circular can be the MSC. 1/ Circ.1578 “Guidelines on Safety During Abandon Ship Drills Using Lifeboats”.


To sum up, we can see that the MSC is responsible for all the amendments and many recommendations regarding safety at sea. That’s why the MSC is considered one of the most important committees in the IMO, and it is probably one of the busiest bodies inside the Organization


The IMO are the initials of the International Maritime Organization. This organism was created by the Organization of the United Nations in 1948 and it is in charge of the safety and security at sea and also of the environmental safety of the seas.

The number of Member States on the IMO is currently 172 (2017) and it also counts with 3 Associate Members.

What’s the difference between a member state and an associate member?

If we check the FAQs of the IMO webpage, we will find how to become a member of the IMO:

How can I become a member of the IMO?

“Only a country can become a Member of IMO.”

Then, what is an associate member?

If we see the Member list of the page, the 3 Associate Members are:

  • Faroes.
  • Hong Kong, China.
  • Macao, China.

The three of them have one thing in common, and it is that they are autonomous countries/territories, which depend on another sovereign state.

So, Associate Members will be those territories that depend on a sovereign state which is a Member of the IMO.

This concept can be described in the Convention on the International Maritime Organization (IMO), part 3, article 8:

 “Article 8

Any Territory or group of Territories to which the Convention has been made applicable under Article 72, by the Member having responsibility for its international relations or by the United Nations, may become an Associate Member of the Organization by notification in writing given by such Member or by the United Nations, as the case may be, to the Secretary General of the United Nations.”

What is the structure of the IMO?

The Organization consists of an Assembly, a Council, five main committees and a number of sub-committees for supporting the work of the main committees.

Those main committees are:

  • The Maritime Safety Committee.
  • The Marine Environment Protection Committee.
  • The Legal Committee.
  • The Technical Cooperation Committee.
  • The Facilitation Committee.