Vessel was loaded, draft 8.5 metres, a short (approx. 5 to 6 rungs no spreader) Pilot ladder was rigged on the Starboard quarter. It was secured to the top rail with a side gate access for the deck. As I stepped on to the ladder it began to slip downwards and I quickly scrambled on board. I then checked the securing method, the AB had taken 3 turns around the top hand rail and secured this with a Half hitch. So as my weight came on the ladder the round turns just rolled out until the ladder came up on the half hitch. On arrival on the Bridge I explained what had occurred to the Captain and the OOW with a diagram. The Captain instigated a near miss report in the company’s system and planned to have a tool box talk with the crew. I explained the correct securing is to the deck via Pad eyes and not to the rail. On arrival back at the Pilot Station, I completed a defect report which was sent to the MCA and the local harbour master.
Lessons Learned: If possible check the securing arrangement, not always possible at night etc.
In UK ports, before any pilot transfer is undertaken, Masters are required to make a declaration by radio that their pilot ladder meets the requirements set out in SOLAS . Pilots advise the MCA when they encounter sub-standard rigging of pilot ladders and this triggers a Port State inspection. In this case, the vessel was later inspected by Port State Control at Boulogne sur Mer and with no deficiencies found.
CHIRP contacted the ship managers and received a very prompt response. The managers had received a report from the ship, the vessel is equipped with a fully compliant pilot ladder with agreement made for the pilot to board on the port side but this requirement was changed and the ladder was then hastily rigged on the starboard side without appropriate oversight by an officer. The managers had advised the Master, he must make a full appraisal of each situation and take appropriate action prior to embarking a pilot and to always use a certified pilot ladder.
The procedure for the rigging of the ladder was reviewed by the company’s MAROPS department, they then adjusted their SMS procedure and included detailed reference to the IMO/IMPA recommendations. Copies of all relevant documents were shared with CHIRP.
This report is a good example of a positive response to a hazardous occurrence. Whilst the Captain is on the bridge, the officers are responsible for the ladder to be rigged correctly. The amendment to SOLAS 1974 adopted in 2010 states ‘The rigging of the pilot transfer arrangements and the embarkation of a pilot shall be supervised by a responsible officer having means of communication with the navigation bridge and who shall also arrange for the escort of the pilot by a safe route to and from the navigation bridge. Personnel engaged in rigging and operating any mechanical equipment shall be instructed in the safe procedures to be adopted and the equipment shall be tested prior to use.’
CHIRP suggests a similar approach should also be adopted on fishing vessels when making arrangements to allow personnel to board at sea.