Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Titanic's lifeboats

The years immediately following the release of the 1997 movie Titanic were interesting if you worked on a cruise ship. A couple of people were arrested for standing on the bow of large cruise ships and yelling "I'm king of the world." Others had to be chased out of lower deck areas, usually crew quarters, because they thought all the really fun parties were in "steerage." And there were a lot of questions about life boats; people were really concerned about there being enough room in the life boats.

The sinking of the Titanic in 1912 led to public outcry for tougher safety standards on merchant ships, and two years later the first International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) went into effect. Then new treaty required sufficient life boat space for all passengers and crew, mandated certain safety equipment, and required a continuous radio watch on all vessels. The treaty changed and expanded over succeeding decades, then underwent a major overhaul that went into effect on November 1, 1974. A form of that treaty is still in effect today, nearly a century after the Titanic disaster.

Among the requirements of the SOLAS '74 treaty:
  • All ships must be built to keep them afloat, even if one watertight compartment might be flooded
  • Specific provisions for fire fighting equipment, life boats, life jackets, and other "life-saving appliances"
  • "Carriage requirements" for equipment compatible with the Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS)
  • Cargo carrying rules, including those for dangerous cargos
  • Security procedures
  • Various rules for nuclear-powered vessels, bulk carriers, and high-speed craft
The treaty mainly applies to merchant vessels not recreational vessels, yachts, or military craft. One section, Chapter V, applies to all vessels. In addition to setting forth requirements for the proper manning and equipping of all vessels, the treaty obligates ship captains to go to the aid of other vessels in distress
The master of a ship at sea which is in a position to be able to provideassistance on receiving a signal from any source that persons are in distressat sea, is bound to proceed with all speed to their assistance, if possibleinforming them or the search and rescue service that the ship is doing so.
For more on the SOLAS Treaty, see the International Maritime Organization's SOLAS page.

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