Polar facts: SOLAS, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea

Keke Liu

The IMO’s MSC (Maritime Safety Committee) accepted the international code for ships operating in polar waters in November 2014. The Polar Code came into effect on 1 January 2017. The Code provides a binding international framework to protect the polar areas (the North and South Pole regions) against maritime risks. In a previous blog we discussed exactly what the Polar Code entails; this time we’ll look at the SOLAS treaty in more detail: the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea.

Previous history of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea

The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea. The first version of the treaty was adopted in 1914 in response to the Titanic disaster. One of the things it provided for was the implementation of a patrol of icebergs: the International Ice Patrol. Requirements were also set for the minimum number of lifeboats and uninterrupted radio monitoring on a fixed emergency frequency. In 1929, after the sinking of the Vestris the year before, the treaty was amended, and stipulations were included on watertight integrity, structural fire protection and fireproof bulkheads, this time signed by forty nations. The treaty has been amended and updated many times since (following accidents or shipping disasters). Since 1954, SOLAS has been the responsibility of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

SOLAS components

SOLAS currently includes the following components:


  • Ship construction (Chapter II)
    This chapter contains stipulations important in the construction of a vessel. It covers aspects such as stability, electrical installations, fire protection, watertight divisions etc.
  • Life-saving appliances/facilities and safety equipment (Chapter III)
    Life-saving appliances and arrangements. All the stipulations on life-saving appliances are described in this chapter. Among the aspects described are the number of life rafts, lifeboats and lifejackets and man-overboard boats on board, and the mandatory drills and inspections.
  • Radio communications (GMDSS)
    Stipulations about radio communication and the equipment used can be found in this chapter. Which equipment must be on-board for which sailing areas, requirements for the marine telephone, EPIRB, SART and shortwave radio transmitters are all covered in Chapter IV.
  • Safe navigation (Chapter V)
    What is unusual about this chapter is that all ships, whatever their type of voyage, must conform to these rules. This is in contrast to the other chapters. However the flag states are given some leeway to implement changes to the provisions, which will exempt mainly smaller vessels.

For the Polar Code the component ‘Safety measures for ships sailing in Polar waters’ has been added to SOLAS. SOLAS stipulates that ships built on or before 1 January 2017 must comply with the safety component of the Polar Code upon delivery. Existing ships (built before 1 January 2017) must comply with the Code (the safety component of the Polar Code – SOLAS) upon first interim inspection or re-inspection after 1 January 2018.

Green sealing solutions

Various sealing solutions are available to make your ship environmentally friendly and meet the provisions of the Polar Code. A number of these sealing solutions is described below:


  • Supreme Ventus®
    The Supreme Ventus air-type seal is the seal that guarantees you zero oil-emissions, an absolute minimum of wear and enables you to check the condition of the seal. It is suitable for vessels with a varying draught and vessels that want to prevent oil-emission.
  • Water Lubricated Floating seal
    The Water Lubricated Floating seal has been especially developed to prevent water leakage from your open water lubricated stern tube systems into your machine room. It is an environmentally friendly solution in line with VGP regulations which allows for in situ maintenance and Condition Monitoring.
  • Water Lubricated Forward seal
    The Water Lubricated FWD seal is especially developed to prevent water leakage from your open water lubricated stern tube system into your machine room. It’s an environmentally friendly sealing solution in line with VGP regulations which is repositionable to realign with shaft and has a optimised and extended seal lifetime.

Overview of our green sealing solutions

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