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Ship Fire SOLAS Conventions

1914 and 1929 SOLAS Conventions

The first fire protection requirements for international shipping were developed as part of the 1914 SOLAS Convention, which was developed in response to the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Although the 1914 SOLAS Convention was prevented from coming into force due to World War I, it did contain basic fire safety requirements which were later carried over to the 1929 SOLAS Convention.

1948 and 1960 SOLAS Conventions

After the adoption of the 1929 SOLAS Convention, many lessons were learned about the safety of shipping in general, including fire protection, which led to the adoption of the 1948 SOLAS Convention. In 1934, a fire aboard the passenger ship Morro Castle caused 134 casualties. The investigation of the Morro Castle fire, and the lessons learned from it, played a major part in the development of the non-combustible construction regulations which today form the basis of the fire safety regulations for passengers ships. In addition, many advances in maritime technology were made during World War II and subsequently incorporated into the 1948 SOLAS Convention. As a result, a greater emphasis was placed on fire safety aboard ships and this was demonstrated by the development of three new parts (parts D, E and F) being added to chapter II of the 1948 SOLAS Convention which were exclusively dedicated to fire safety. In addition, the SOLAS 1948 requirements applied to both passenger ships and cargo ships.

The 1948 SOLAS Convention established three methods of construction for passenger ships and basic fire protection requirements for cargo ships. The 1948 SOLAS Convention was eventually updated with the 1960 SOLAS Convention. The most significant change incorporated into the 1960 SOLAS Convention, related to fire safety, was the application of certain passenger ship fire safety requirements to cargo ships.

1974 SOLAS Convention
While the SOLAS conventions of 1914, 1929, 1948 and 1960 did contain fire safety requirements, they proved inadequate for passenger ships. In the 1960’s, a series of fires aboard international passengers ships highlighted many problems and, as a result, many changes were incorporated into the 1974 SOLAS Convention. In the 1974 Convention (which came into effect in 1980 and is still in force today, as amended) separated the fire requiements into a separate chapter: SOLAS chapter II (Construction) of the 1960 SOLAS Convention was divided into two new chapters: chapter II-1 on Construction - Structure, subdivision and stability, machinery and electrical requirements, and chapter II-2 on Construction - Fire protection, fire detection and fire extinction.

The 1974 SOLAS required all new passenger ships to be built of non-combustible materials and to have either a fixed fire sprinkler system or fixed fire detection system installed. Requirements for cargo ships were also updated with special regulations for specific types of cargo ships such as tankers.

1981 revision

The 1981 Amendments, which entered into force on 1 September 1984, completely revised SOLAS chapter II-2. The amendments included the requirements of resolutions A.327(IX) Recommendation concerning fire safety requirements for cargo ships(Incorporated in
MSC.1(XLV)) and A.372(X) Recommendation concerning fire safety requirements for passenger ships carrying not
more than 36 passengers(Incorporated in MSC.1(XLV)), adopted in 1975 and 1977 respectively, provisions for halogenated hydrocarbon fire extinguishing systems and a new regulation 62 on inert gas systems.

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