Fishing Vessels and Pilot Ladders


A report outlining the need for fishing vessels to rig pilot ladders safely

What the Reporter told us (1):

Whilst preparing to disembark a fishing vessel after an outbound pilotage, the following was noted at the pilot ladder: shackles were used to connect side ropes together as a loop around the ship’s side rail, no bulwark ladder was provided and there were no stanchions in place. There were also no fittings for them on the deck. No lifebuoy with light was provided at the disembarkation position, and there was no deck officer at the ladder.

Following a VHF conversation and agreement with the launch master to ensure a safe disembarkation, the transfer was completed inside the harbour in sheltered waters. A Port State Control inspection upon the vessel’s next arrival was recommended.

I have piloted this vessel in and out a number of times in the three and a half years that I have been here, but on previous occasions the pilot ladder was rigged abaft the bridge with arrangements that met the IMO regulations. On this occasion it was rigged forward of the bridge and close to the flare of the bow, which was contrary to requirements. The vessel had been laid up for some time and reflagged. The crew were unfamiliar with the bridge equipment and what a Pilot Card was, so this was probably their first departure. The ship was heading outbound to fishing grounds and was not expected to return to port in the near future.

At 47m LOA and 897 GRT, she was not a ‘small fishing vessel’ and would expect to take a pilot in most ports.  I could have ignored the deficiency and moved on, but in order to ensure the safety of pilots boarding the vessel in the future, it needed to be reported! I get so annoyed when so-called ‘professional seafarers’, ignore regulations put in place for my safety!

What the Reporter told us (2):

This 105m fishing vessel is engaged in fishing offshore around our country and regularly calls at our port. Following an outbound pilotage, when disembarking, it was noted that the man ropes for the pilot ladder were synthetic, and that they were less than 28mm in diameter. As conditions were calm with little movement between the fishing vessel and the pilot launch, I had the option of holding the pilot ladder rather than manropes. I disembarked safely but stress that the man ropes were unsafe.

CHIRP Comment:

The Maritime Advisory Board commented that irrespective of the type of vessel, a pilot ladder should always be rigged correctly in accordance with SOLAS Chapter V Regulation 23, and IMO Assembly Resolution A.1045(27), as amended by A.1108(29). In addition, reference is made to the IMPA Pilot Boarding Arrangements poster. All of the foregoing may be found on the publications page of

For clarity, the application of SOLAS V regulation 1 states inter alia that;

The Administration shall determine to what extent the provisions of regulations 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 and 28 do not apply to the following categories of ships:

4.1 ships below 150 gross tonnage engaged on any voyage;

4.2 ships below 500 gross tonnage not engaged on international voyages; and

4.3 fishing vessels

Rule 23 however, states that Ships engaged on voyages in the course of which pilots may be employed shall be provided with pilot transfer arrangements

With respect to manropes, SOLAS V Regulation 23 – 7.1.1 states that “Two man-ropes of not less than 28 mm and not more than 32 mm in diameter properly secured to the ship if required by the pilot; man-ropes shall be fixed at the rope end to the ring plate fixed on deck and shall be ready for use when the pilot disembarks, (or upon request from a pilot approaching to board), the manropes shall reach the height of the stanchions or bulwarks at the point of access to the deck before terminating at the ring plate on deck”.

CHIRP would comment that whilst synthetic ropes are not explicitly forbidden, best practice and a pilot’s preference is for natural fibre such as manila rope, as this gives a much better grip

Finally, CHIRP would mention to all readers there is absolutely no obligation for a pilot to use a non-compliant ladder arrangement.


Report Ends…………………