Pilot Ladders

Report Text:

In Issue 27, you had a report “Killer in Manila”. I often board ships at anchor via the pilot ladder and take a keen interest in the state of the ladder as I am climbing up. Unfortunately once I have made the “leap of faith” from the service boat onto the bottom of the ladder it’s too late. You are somewhat committed at that point.

Referring back to your article I have on one ship seen a pilot ladder that utilised shaped aluminium “clamps” instead of whipping thread on the manila main lines above and below that “vee” block at each tread. This was not something that had been put on by the ship’s staff but was the system of manufacture from new. The aluminium “grippers” were vee shaped to accept the main lines with two wings on the outside of each side which were formed around the main line to seize the integral block in place and thus hold the tread. The aluminium blocks were quite sharp at the edges where they met the main line and would after a period of time cut into the rope.

CHIRP Comment:

We thank the correspondent for the letter. A survey carried out in 2010 by the International Maritime Pilot’s Association indicated that 13.5% of vessels in the survey had defects in the pilot boarding arrangements. Although this is an improvement on previous surveys, it is still much too high. (The IMPA Safety Campaign 2010 report can be accessed via www.impahq.org ).

If you are a mariner on a commercial vessel, are you satisfied that there are robust procedures for inspecting pilot ladders, and that these are being applied?

If you are a pilot and observe a defect in the boarding arrangements, you are urged to report the matter to the port state authority. If you are reluctant to do this, please contact CHIRP. Don’t tacitly endorse such hazards by not reporting!

If a pilot ladder incorporates aluminium grippers or ferrules, as described in this letter, careful attention must be paid to the condition of the rope to ensure that it is not being cut or chaffed by the aluminium.