SOLAS, emergencies and communication Adapted from Skračić,T., „Waypoint” • Glossary: emergency, mandatory regulations, non-compliance, fatality, prosecution, fine (n.), jail sentence, maiden voyage, treaty, lifesaving signals, danger message, grave and imminent danger, distress signal, respond to, forecast updates, distress flares, red flare, orange smoke, downwind, red parachute rocket, VHF distress and emergency signals, urgency call. • SOLAS stands for Safety of Life At Sea. The SOLAS Convention in its successive forms is generally regarded as the most important of all international treaties concerning the safety of merchant ships. The first version was adopted in 1914 in response to the sinking of the liner Titanic on her maiden voyage in April 1912. Since then there have been a number of SOLAS conventions covering many aspects of safety at sea including: • • • • • • • • • • Construction of vessels, machinery and electrical installations Fire protection, fire detection and fire extinction Life-saving appliances and arrangements Radio communications Safety of navigation including Collision regulations, GMDSS, DSC, and EPIRB systems Carriage of cargoes and dangerous goods Nuclear ships International Safety Management (ISM) Code International Ship and Port Facilities Security Code (ISPS Code) International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) Some of the mandatory regulations. • Here are some of the SOLAS regulations relevant to pleasure vessels under 150 GT: • Radar reflectors • If it is possible to fit a radar reflector on your boat then you should use one. • Life saving signals • An illustrated diagram depicting these signals must be readily available on board. The signals are to be used by any ship or person in distress, when communicating with SAR units. It is important that mariners, whether engaged in commercial or leisure activities, are familiar with them. • Danger messages • All skippers have a duty to report to the coast guard anything that might be a serious hazard to navigation. Examples of navigational dangers include dangerous obstructions, tornadoes, storms, etc. • Distress signals • Skippers have an obligation to respond to distress signals from any source and to assist as best they can. If the vessel receiving the distress alert is unable or, in the special circumstances of the case, considers it unreasonable or unnecessary to proceed to the assistance of the persons in distress, the master / skipper must inform the appropriate search and rescue service. • Distress signals – misuse • The use of a signal for anything other than an emergency is prohibited. Distress signals have a life saving role and should not be misused as this could put your own or someone else's life at risk. • Voyage / Passage planning • All mariners are expected to make a careful assessment of any proposed voyage taking into account all dangers to navigation, weather forecasts, tidal predictions and other relevant factors including the competence of the crew (the passage planning has been discussed earlier in this textbook). • Environment • As far as possible, always avoid any action or activity that might be harmful to the environment. • In Great Britain, sailors who fail to comply with the SOLAS regulations, mandatory for all leisure craft users from 1 July 2002, risk prosecution and fines of up to ₤5000. Also, in instances where it is proved that fatalities have occurred because of non-compliance, a jail sentence could be imposed. Calling for assistance using flares • There are three main types of distress flare, all with different ignition systems. A skipper should read the instructions and familiarise himself with each type of flare before he needs to use them in an emergency and ensure that they are in-date – old flares become very unreliable. • - Hand-held red: The skipper should use it day or night when near to the shore or to assist rescue craft to see him. He should wear gloves if possible, hold at arm’s length downwind and doesn’t look directly at the flare. • - Orange smoke: These are hand-held or buoyant types. They are useful to help rescue helicopters identify the skipper’s position and to assess wind direction. • - Red parachute rocket: It can be seen for up to 25 miles in good visibility. It rises to about 300 metres, then falls slowly under the parachute. It should be fired vertically or • slightly downwind. Never fire a parachute flare if a helicopter is approaching. • • Red flares and orange smoke are used to attract attention in case of difficulty and to pinpoint your position for searching rescue craft. White flares are not distress signals – they are only used to warn others of dangers of collision. • A tip: It is better to fire flares in groups of two – they are more likely to be seen than singly. • Flares should be held downwind and outboard so that any burning dross falls clear of the boat. VHF emergency signals • A distress signal is only to be used when there is grave and imminent danger to a vessel or person and immediate assistance is required. Do not hesitate to send a distress signal if your vessel is sinking, if there is a fire that you are unable to put out, if you are not sure that you will recover the person who fell over the side, if your engine or steering gear has failed in heavy weather… Switch on the radio, select channel 16, and transmit on high power: • • • • • • • • 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Mayday – Mayday – Mayday This is – Name of vessels three times Mayday – Name of vessel once Give your position State the nature of the emergency Type of assistance required Give any other helpful information Over – end of message • If the emergency does not warrant a full Mayday alert (or if in doubt) the urgency call may be used instead. Send a PanPan alert if you need medical assistance, if you have an engine, steering, fire, or some other problem, but there is no imminent danger to the vessel or people: 1. PanPan – PanPan – PanPan 2. All stations – All stations – All stations 3. This is – Name of vessel three times 4. Give your position 5. State the nature of the emergency 6. Type of assistance required 7. Over – end of message Other recognised signals for assistance are: • - SOS in Morse code by light or sound. • - Letters NC by flag or Morse code. • - A ball shape displayed over or under a square shape. • - Continuous sounding of fog horn. Safety message • A sécurité call is an important navigational or meteorological warning. If you spot a large floating object, an oil spill, an approaching tornado, a light buoy that is not lit, or anything that is a threat to safe navigation or environment, transmit a sécurité message.