The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is a United Nations (UN) organization. The IMO is responsible for legislation at sea involving all countries in which safety and preventing (environmental) incidents is the primary focus. The IMO encompasses the ‘Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS)’ treaty among others. This treaty lays down the required safety facilities on board of seagoing vessels. The SOLAS treaty was established in 1914 after the 1912 Titanic disaster in which 1522 persons on board lost their lives.

Safety requirements

The SOLAS treaty describes the safety requirements with which seagoing vessels must comply in terms of construction, safety measures, radio equipment and crew. The safety measures can in turn be subdivided into, for example, fire fighting equipment, safety rafts, lifejackets and lifeboats. But it also stipulates that certain safety exercises must be carried out periodically.

Agreements and plans

‘SOLAS Chapter V Regulation 7.3’ stipulates that ferry services transporting passengers must make agreements and establish emergency plans with search and rescue organizations, which is Netherlands Coastguard in the Netherlands. And these plans must be practiced. This requirement is met by means of ‘paper’ exercises (referred to as MAREX) and live exercises (LIVEX), during which representatives of all authorities involved in an incident or calamity involving a ferry come together to practice, discuss and evaluate a scenario.

SOLAS Chapter V Regulation 7.3

Passenger ships to which chapter I applies shall have on board a plan for cooperation with appropriate search and rescue services in the event of an emergency. The plan shall be developed in cooperation between the ship, the company, as defined in regulation IX/1 and the search and rescue services. The plan shall include provisions for periodic exercises to be undertaken to test its effectiveness. The plan shall be developed based on the guidelines developed by the Organization.