SOLAS 2020 updates

In 2014, the IMO agreed that amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) should follow a four-year cycle for entry into force. The first entry into force date is then 1 January 2020, making amendments adopted in 2016, 2017 and 2018 effective. This statutory news highlights the main changes to SOLAS and to the codes made mandatory under the SOLAS Convention.

Technical and regulatory news - DNV GL

Relevant for ship owners and managers, yards, design offices, suppliers and flag states.


Subdivision and stability

The most significant 2020 changes raise the damage stability requirements for new passenger ships in the event of flooding caused by collision or grounding.

Other parts of SOLAS Ch. II-1 have been updated to better capture the probabilistic damage stability approach introduced by SOLAS 2009 for cargo and passenger ships, and to include lessons from the 2012 Costa Concordia accident. Main updates to passenger ships include:

  • Improved survivability – Increased capability for new passenger ships to remain stable and afloat in case of flooding after collision or grounding. Stricter requirements for Ro-Ro passenger ships to withstand flooding of large open vehicle spaces.
  • Emergency information – Updated stability information to be available to the master after flooding, also for passenger ships built before 2014, either by on-board stability computers or shore-based support.
  • Damage control drills – Damage control drills shall take place every three months on all passenger ships.

Highlights for both cargo and passenger ships include removal of flag Administrations' possibility to accept permanent open watertight doors on a case-by-case basis. The 2020 requirements further allow more flexible handling of stability limits with respect to trim.

Fire safety

The 2020 updates to SOLAS Ch. II-2 require helicopter landing areas on cargo and passenger ships to be provided with foam firefighting appliances, as for dedicated helicopter decks.

Fire safety requirements for “regular” cargo spaces (non-vehicle spaces) used to transport vehicles with fuel in their tanks for their own propulsion are further clarified and harmonized with the requirements for the carriage of dangerous goods.

The fire integrity of windows facing survival craft, embarkation and assembly stations on passenger ships are clarified, in effect relaxing the requirement to A-0 for ships carrying not more than 36 passengers.

Life-saving appliances

The 2020 updates to SOLAS Ch. III require the thorough examination, operational testing, repair and overhaul of lifeboats, rescue boats, launching appliances and release gear to be carried out by authorized service providers. The purpose is to prevent injury to crew participating in lifeboat and rescue boat drills and inspections, and to ensure the quality level of the servicing.

Radio communication

SOLAS Ch. IV has been amended to refer to generic mobile satellite system instead of “Inmarsat” to allow for future new providers of such services.


Fire Safety Systems (FSS) Code

A new Chapter 17 details the requirements for foam firefighting appliances for helicopter facilities.

Water quality for sprinkler systems are addressed to prevent internal corrosion of sprinklers and clogging or blockage.

Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk (IBC, BCH Code), Liquefied Gases in Bulk (CG, BCH Code)

Chemical tankers and gas carriers shall be fitted with an approved stability instrument, capable of verifying compliance with intact and damage stability requirements.

Gas-fuelled vessels (IGF Code)

The fire integrity requirement for wheelhouse windows on gasfuelled vessels is aligned with those for ships carrying gases in bulk (IGC Code), in effect removing the requirement to A-0 class windows.

1994 and 2000 High Speed Craft (HSC) Code

Small high-speed craft may be exempted from carrying a rescue boat.

Life Saving Appliances (LSA) Code

The safety factor for winch structural components used in connection with launching appliances is aligned with that of other structural members for lifting appliances. (For more information on LSA, see our recent Technical and Regulatory News on LSA).


We recommend our customers to review and assess the implications of the above-mentioned regulations.


For an overview of new requirements, please refer to our Technical and Regulatory News:


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