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Monday, October 21, 2019 

DNV GL has issued a reminder that updates to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention are due to become mandatory on 1 January 2020, mostly covering stability, fire safety and life-saving appliances.

The most significant 2020 changes raise the damage stability requirements for new passenger ships in the event of flooding caused by collision or grounding. Other updates better capture the probabilistic damage stability approach introduced by SOLAS 2009 for cargo and passenger ships, and include lessons from the 2012 Costa Concordia accident. Main updates to passenger ships include:

  • Improved survivability – Increased capability for new passenger ships to remain stable and afloat in case of flooding after collision or grounding. Stricter requirements for ro-pax ships to withstand flooding of large open vehicle spaces.
  • Emergency information – Updated stability information to be available to the master after flooding, also for passenger ships built before 2014, either by on-board stability computers or shore-based support.
  • Damage control drills – Damage control drills shall take place every three months on all passenger ships.

Highlights for both cargo and passenger ships include removal of flag Administrations' possibility to accept permanent open watertight doors on a case-by-case basis. The 2020 requirements further allow more flexible handling of stability limits with respect to trim. The IBC, BCH Code and CG, BCH Code, applicable to chemical tankers and gas carriers, require such ships to be fitted with an approved stability instrument, capable of verifying compliance with intact and damage stability requirements.

Updates to SOLAS Ch. II-2 relevant to fire safety require helicopter landing areas on cargo and passenger ships to be provided with foam firefighting appliances, as for dedicated helicopter decks. The requirements are detailed in a new Chapter 17 of the FSS Code.

Fire safety requirements for ‘regular’ cargo spaces (non-vehicle spaces) used to transport vehicles with fuel in their tanks for their own propulsion are further clarified and harmonised with the requirements for the carriage of dangerous goods. Water quality for sprinkler systems is addressed to prevent internal corrosion of sprinklers and clogging or blockage.

The fire integrity of windows facing survival craft, embarkation and assembly stations on passenger ships are clarified, in effect relaxing the requirement to A-0 for ships carrying not more than 36 passengers. The fire integrity requirement for wheelhouse windows on gas-fuelled vessels is aligned with the IGC Code, in effect removing the requirement to A-0 class windows.

Life-saving appliances: updates to SOLAS Ch III require the thorough examination, operational testing, repair and overhaul of lifeboats, rescue boats, launching appliances and release gear to be carried out by authorised service providers. The purpose is to prevent injury to crew participating in lifeboat and rescue boat drills and inspections, and to ensure the quality level of the servicing.

Under changes to the HSC Code, small high-speed craft may be exempted from carrying a rescue boat.

Furthermore, SOLAS Ch IV has been amended to refer to generic mobile satellite system instead of 'Inmarsat' to allow for future new providers of such services.

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