SOLAS: Do you need an ATEX radio?


There's been a lot of talk in the industry about the revised IMO SOLAS Convention.

For those of you who aren't aware, the IMO (International Maritime Organization) is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and for the prevention of environmental pollution by ships*.
The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) is an international maritime treaty, convened by the IMO, which sets minimum safety standards in the construction of; equipment used on and operation of merchant ships*.

The part of the Convention that's got everyone in this industry's attention says "For ships constructed on or after 1 July 2014, a minimum of two two-way portable radiotelephone apparatus for each fire party for fire-fighter’s communication shall be carried on board. Those two-way portable radiotelephone apparatus shall be of an explosion-proof type or intrinsically safe. Ships constructed before 1 July 2014 shall comply with the requirements of this paragraph not later than the first survey after 1 July 2018.”

As you can see, the SOLAS Convention does not mention which standard or directive these frirefighter radios should be compliant to. However the EU Marine Equipment Directive  (MED) Annex 5.20 references SOLAS Chapter II §10.10.4 and goes further to stipulate ATEX ( per II 2G EX ib IIB). Not only that, MED 5.20 also requires compliance to EN 60945:2002 and EN 300 720 v2.1.1 for on-board communications in the UHF band.

EN 60945:2002 relates to EMC and compass safety and EN 300 720 v2.1.1 relates to RF parameters for onboard communications equipment.

Ships that are not carrying the flag of (or registered in) an EU/EFTA country, don't have to have ATEX compliant fire-fighter’s radios. They can instead use a Motorola UHF radio with a TIA-4950 option/certification as this is also SOLAS compliant.

Ships carrying an EU member state flag (i.e. the ship is registered in that country) must comply with SOLAS as well as MED and therefore the required firefighter radios have to be ATEX. Some operators outside the EU might also voluntarily require their vessels to have ATEX radios.

Further details can be found on the Motorola Solutions website.

* Source: Wikipedia CC BY SA 4.0
** Source: European Parliament

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