NTSB marks centennial of marine safety treaty

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One hundred years ago, on Jan. 20, 1914, 13 nations agreed on the terms of the International Convention on Safety of Life at Sea.

The landmark international agreement known as SOLAS, prompted by the sinking on April 15, 1912, of the RMS Titanic with the loss of more than 1,500 men, women, and children, established international standards on (among other things) watertight and fireproof bulkheads; signaling apparatus (particularly wireless telegraphy); safety of navigation; and lifesaving, fire prevention and firefighting equipment.

Tracy Murrell, director of the National Transportation Safety Board’s Office of Marine Safety, has written an essay on the history of SOLAS and how the NTSB envisions it evolving.

“Shortly thereafter, the First World War broke out. Only five countries had signed the treaty when it went into force in 1915,” Murrell writes on the NTSB Safety Compass, the official blog of the NTSB chairman. “But from humble beginnings, international marine safety grew into a truly global undertaking. SOLAS has survived revolutions and world wars, and today 159 countries are signed on.”

The International Maritime Organization honors the 100th anniversary with an informative graphic that details some of the maritime safety measures we take for granted that were nonexistent for those aboard the Titanic.

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