SOLAS, MARPOL and beyond
A Handy Revision Guide to the Conventions
Throughout this series of posts on Ship Certification various International Conventions have often been referred to. Therefore this is good time to create a summary of the the Key conventions. To keep things simple, I have ordered and categorised them in the same manner as the certification posts.
The IMO conventions
The majority of the conventions, but not all, are produced by the IMO.
Identifying the ship
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982
“The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea lays down a comprehensive regime of law and order in the world’s oceans and seas establishing rules governing all uses of the oceans and their resources. It enshrines the notion that all problems of ocean space are closely interrelated and need to be addressed as a whole.”
The issues covered by the Convention include:
- Territorial seas
- Innocent passage
- Transit passage through straits
- Exclusive economic zones (EEZ)
- Continental shelf exploitation
- Freedoms of the high sea
- Marine pollution responsibilities
The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea
The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea is an independent judicial body established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to adjudicate disputes arising out of the interpretation and application of the Convention.
Defining the ship
International Convention on Tonnage Measurement of Ships, 1969 (Tonnage Convention)
This Convention introduced an universal tonnage measurement system. The Convention provides for gross and net tonnages, both of which are calculated independently.
Gross tonnage and net tonnage
The Convention meant a transition from the traditionally used terms gross register tons (grt) and net register tons (nrt) to gross tonnage(GT) and net tonnage (NT).
Some definitions from the Convention
“(4) “gross tonnage” means the measure of the overall size of a ship determined in accordance with the provisions of the present Convention;
(5) “net tonnage” means the measure of the useful capacity of a ship determined in accordance with the provisions of the present Convention;”
International Convention on Load Lines, 1966, as modified by the 1988 Protocol relating thereto, as amended (Load Lines Convention)
“It has long been recognized that limitations on the draught to which a ship may be loaded make a significant contribution to her safety. These limits are given in the form of freeboards, which constitute, besides external weathertight and watertight integrity, the main objective of the Convention.” IMO website
Contents of the convention
- Chapter I – General
- Chapter II – Conditions of assignment of freeboard
- Chapter III – Freeboards
- Chapter IV – Special requirements for ships assigned timber freeboards
Annex II covers Zones, areas and seasonal periods
Annex III contains certificates, including the International Load Line Certificate
Managing the vessel
The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification
and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978
International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers entered into force in 1984. The main purpose of the Convention is to promote safety of life and property at sea and the protection of the marine environment by establishing in common agreement international standards of training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers.
The Manila amendments to the STCW Convention and Code were adopted on 25 June 2010, marking a major revision of the STCW Convention and Code.
The STCW regulations are supported by sections by the STCW Code. The Convention contains basic requirements which are then enlarged upon and explained in the Code.
Part A of the Code is mandatory. The minimum standards of competence required for seagoing personnel are given in detail in a series of tables.
Part B of the Code contains recommended guidance which is intended to help implement the Convention.
ILO Maritime Labour Convention, (MLC 2006) – As amended by the 2014 Amendment (MLC)
The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (“MLC, 2006”) establishes minimum working and living standards for all seafarers working on ships flying the flags of ratifying countries. It is widely known as the “seafarers’ bill of rights,”
The convention is an international labour Convention adopted by the International Labour Organization (ILO).
Keeping the ship safe
The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974
“The SOLAS Convention in its successive forms is generally regarded as the most important of all international treaties concerning the safety of merchant ships. The first version was adopted in 1914, in response to the Titanic disaster, the second in 1929, the third in 1948, and the fourth in 1960. The 1974 version includes the tacit acceptance procedure – which provides that an amendment shall enter into force on a specified date unless, before that date, objections to the amendment are received from an agreed number of Parties.” IMO Website
The 1974 Convention has been updated and amended on numerous occasions. The Convention in force today is sometimes referred to as SOLAS, 1974, as amended.
Keeping the seas clean
The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973 (MARPOL)
MARPOL is the main international convention covering prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships from operational or accidental causes.
The MARPOL Convention was adopted on 2 November 1973 at IMO. MARPOL has been updated by amendments over the years.
The convention currently includes six technical Annexes.
International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004 (BWM Convention)
The Convention aims to prevent, minimize and ultimately eliminate the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens through the control and management of ships’ ballast water and sediments. It enters into force on 8 September 2017.
- Click here for IMO information about the BWM Convention>
- Click Here for a Handy Guide to the BWM Convention>
Under the Convention, all ships in international traffic are required to manage their ballast water and sediments to a certain standard, according to a ship-specific ballast water management plan. All ships will also have to carry a ballast water record book and an international ballast water management certificate.
International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships, 2001 (AFS Convention)
The Convention prohibits the use of harmful organotins in anti-fouling paints used on ships and establishes a mechanism to prevent the potential future use of other harmful substances in anti-fouling systems.
Annex I of the Convention states that all ships shall not apply or re-apply organotins compounds which act as biocides in anti-fouling systems.
International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, 2001 (Bunkers Convention)
The Convention was adopted to ensure that adequate, prompt, and effective compensation is available to persons who suffer damage caused by spills of oil, when carried as fuel in ships’ bunkers
International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage, 1992 (CLC Convention)
The Convention covers those who suffer oil pollution damage resulting from maritime casualties involving oil-carrying ships. The Convention places the liability for such damage on the owner of the ship from which the polluting oil escaped or was discharged.
The Convention applies to seagoing vessels carrying oil in bulk as cargo, but only ships carrying more than 2,000 tons of oil are required to maintain insurance in respect of oil pollution damage.
Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 (COLREGs)
The Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, 2009
The Hong Kong Convention is aimed at ensuring that ships, when being recycled after reaching the end of their operational lives, do not pose any unnecessary risk to human health and safety or to the environment.
Its regulations cover:
- The design, construction, operation and preparation of ships so as to facilitate safe and environmentally sound recycling
- The operation of ship recycling facilities in a safe and environmentally sound manner
- The establishment of an appropriate enforcement mechanism for ship recycling, incorporating certification and reporting requirements
Ships to be sent for recycling will be required to carry an inventory of hazardous materials, which will be specific to each ship.
International Convention on Salvage
The Convention replaced the 1910 convention on the law of salvage which incorporated the “‘no cure, no pay” principle. The 1989 Convention added a provision for an enhanced salvage award taking into account the skill and efforts of the salvors in preventing or minimizing damage to the environment.
International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR)
The 1979 Convention was aimed at developing an international SAR plan, so that, no matter where an accident occurs, the rescue of persons in distress at sea will be co-ordinated by a SAR organization and, when necessary, by co-operation between neighbouring SAR organizations.
As this series on Certification draws to a close this post will no doubt be ‘tweaked’ and expanded, and may form the basis of its own page on spawn more pots….maybe. Meanwhile the next certificate is awaiting exploring.