Whether you are a cruise line passenger or a maritime worker, you need to know that you are on a safe and secure vessel. The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) is a maritime treaty that sets minimum standards for the construction and operation of merchant ships.
The United States is one of dozens of countries that has ratified SOLAS. Merchant ships operating out of American ports must comply with safety standards set forth by the international treaty. In this article, our Texas maritime injury lawyers explain the key things you should know about SOLAS.
Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS): An Overview of Requirements for Merchant Ships
As of 2021, more than 160 countries are signatories to the Safety of Life at Sea treaty. Collectively, these nations represent more than 99% of all merchant ships on international waters, including all merchant vessels sailing under an American flag. Here is a brief overview of the SOLAS minimum safety requirements:
- Construction (Seaworthiness): One section of the treaty deals with the construction/seaworthiness of vessels. To meet requirements, merchant ships must be watertight and properly constructed. Notably, the requirements for passenger ships are heightened.
- Fire Protection: A fire at sea is a very serious safety hazard. SOLAS addressed fire prevention and fire protection requirements, including standards for detection and extinction.
- Life Saving Equipment and Arrangements: To meet the minimum standards set by SOLAS, a merchant ship must have adequate life saving equipment onboard. Additionally, the ship must also have made the proper arrangements to handle an emergency situation.
- Radio Communications: Merchant ships that sail in international waters must have proper radio communication technology installed. Inadequate communication could constitute a health and safety violation.
- Navigation: Beyond communication, there are also navigation requirements included in the treaty. Among other things, this section of SOLAS addresses passage planning, navigation, and the sending of distress signals.
- Management of Ships: Finally, SOLAS puts legal responsibilities on the companies and entities that own and manage merchant ships. Chapter 9 of the treaty clearly outlines the minimum duties of ship owners/ operators.
Cruise ship passengers and maritime workers are entitled to a reasonably safe, seaworthy vessel. When merchant ships fail to meet the minimum standards set by the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, they may be legally liable for any resulting injuries or fatalities.
Call Our Houston, TX Maritime Law Attorney for Help
At the Kolodny Law Firm, our Texas maritime lawyers are knowledgeable and reliable advocates for victims and their families. If you have questions about the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, we can help. Contact us now for a free, no strings attached review and assessment of your case. With a legal office in Houston, we provide maritime law representation to injured victims throughout Southeastern Texas, including in Harris County, Galveston County, Chambers County, Jefferson County, Matagorda County, Brazoria County, and Liberty County.