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Maritime Regulations 101

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- On April 14th, 1912, the RMS Titanic was four days into its main journey from Southampton, England to New York City. This ship was the largest and supposedly the safest ship at the time and it carried some of the most powerful and wealthy people in the world. That particular April was the most active in 50 years for sea ice and nearly every ship sailing around sent out iceberg warnings. Many, however, never made it pass, Titanic’s radio operators desk as the operators where employees in the Marconi Company, rather than the White Star Line, the owner of the ship. Their jobs were to send and receive messages for the passengers, whether report to the ship or a secondary concern. The ship continued on into the night at nearly at soft speed, until at 11:39 PM, the lookout spotted an iceberg and 26 frantic seconds later, a 300-foot gash was torn into the side of the hull. Lifeboats were prepared in launch, many had lessened half capacity, but once all 20 were in the water, there were still thousands of passengers left on board. Lifeboats in this era where only designed to have enough capacity to shuttle passengers to a rescue boat, but there was no rescue boat. The nearest ship, SS Californian, was a mere 10 miles from Titanic. However, Californian radio operator went to bed only 9 minutes before Titanic struck the ice berg, meaning there was no one to receive Titanic’s distress calls. At approximately 2:15 AM, the ship slipped completely underwater, leaving 1500 people to die of exposure in the below freezing water. So much went wrong on the Titanic. There were so many opportunities to save lives but lax regulations helped turn an accident into a tragedy. The sinking of the Titanic was by no means the deadliest maritime disaster in history. There have been in fact four piece time disasters with greater death count, but the public outcry following the disaster changed maritime regulations for good. The first legislative response was the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, also known as SOLAS. This treaty designated the proper number of lifeboats, created requirements for safety equipment, and obliged the shipping companies to begin 24-hour radio watches. While this treaty had good ideas, it didn’t enter into law. Thanks to the outbreak of World War 1. World War 1 came and went, then the Roaring Twenties, then the Great Depression, then World War 2. Then on October 24th, 1945, the United Nations was formed. Its main purpose was to prevent future global conflicts, but it also served an increasingly important role as an International Legislative Body. In 1948, the United Nations established the International Maritime Organization to regulate the commercial shipping industry. Today, 170 countries worldwide have ratified the convention on the International Maritime Organization, which essentially enters them into the organization, and as you can see from this map, those who haven’t don’t have a big stake in the commercial shipping industry. The IMO oversees the creation of conventions on different aspects of maritime commerce, and the member states decide whether or not to ratify these conventions. Each convention has a condition that needs to be met to make it International Maritime law. For example, the Standards for Training, Certification and Watchkeeping, or STCW, which will go over shortly, needed 25 ratifications from nations that make up at least 50% of the world’s gross shipping tonnage, which it received. As the name suggests, it governs how sea farers should be trained and qualified. It requires, for example, that any officer on watch has to be at least 18 years old, chief engineers need to have worked for at least 36 months in the engine room, and plenty of other small, detailed rules. These all served to make sure that mariners from all countries are all held to the same standards. 158 parties worldwide have ratified this treaty, making it one of the most widely accepted conventions. The widespread acceptance is because in order for a ship from a non-signatory state to visit the port of a signing state, its mariners still need to follow the regulations outlined in the convention. Another important convention is MARPOL, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. After the Torrey Canyon disaster in 1967, when a grounded tanker spilled more than 25 million gallons of fuel into the English Channel, this convention was adopted in 1973 and put into force in 1983. It required all new tankers to be built with double hulls. It also limits the discharge of garbage and noxious substances from ships, introduce standards for the carriage of hazardous materials and regulates the amount and type of air pollution ship’s can omit. The Maritime Labour Convention, or MLC, sets forth important regulations on who and how people can work on ships. It sets a minimum work age of 16, stipulates the minimum fitness requirement and once again, requires proper training. It also caps the maximum work hours in the 7-day period and in a 24-hour period. Additionally, the MLC has guidelines for accommodation, facilities, catering, social security, medical care and more. In addition to the four main conventions, there are a couple important codes, like the International Ship and Port Security Code, which sets a minimum security level for ships and ports, and the International Safety Management Code, which builds upon and added to SOLAS in order to further improve safety on the oceans. So those are the foundations of maritime regulations. There, of course, hundreds of additional codes and laws, but SOLAS, STCW, MARPOL, MLC, and the ISM, and ISPS codes are the most important, most useful and the most influential pieces of maritime regulation.

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Duration: 5 minutes and 51 seconds
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Posted by: maritimetraining on Apr 17, 2018

Maritime Regulations 101

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