SOLAS, Safety Of Life At Sea, is an international convention that proposes safety standards for merchant shipping.


SOLAS, now promoted and developed by the IMO (International Maritime Organization), has its origins back in 1912, when an international conference was organized in London to regulate the mode of telegraphic communications. But it was only in 1914, following the sinking of the Titanic, that there was the first real conference aimed at establishing a set of standards for the safety of merchant shipping.

Subsequently, other conferences followed (1929, 1948 and 1960) until the fifth in 1974, which took the name of SOLAS'74, which still represents the reference for the subsequent amendments of 1978, 1983, 1987, 1988 and 1989.

In particular, in 1988, the amendments to SOLAS 1974 were approved for the GMDSS, which regulated the communication system and the radio equipment to be installed.

To which vessels does it apply?

It commonly applies to all ships engaged in international voyages, except in the following cases:

  • Ships of war or troop ships.
  • Cargo ships of less than 500 GRT shall be exempt from the provisions of this Regulation.
  • Ships without mechanical propulsion.
  • The wooden ships of primitive construction.
  • Recreational ships not engaged in commercial traffic.
  • Fishing vessels (following a specific regulation).

However, some amendments have also been extended to other categories of vessels, such as the GMDSS.

What are the purposes of this Convention?

The main objective of the SOLAS Convention is to safeguard the safety of human life at sea by introducing minimum standards for shipbuilding, equipment and operational arrangements for personnel.