Pilots Corner – failures to comply with pilot ladder regulations

The following three short reports all concern failures to comply with the pilot ladder regulations.

Initial Report (1)

Trapdoor type combination, accommodation ladder platform less than five metres above the sea.

The Pilot told the Master that in moderate sea and swell conditions access would not have been possible due to the risk of the pilot being caught under the platform by the waves.

CHIRP notes that the pilot ladder position is constrained by the design of the vessel and believes that an safer position should be considered to provide pilots and other visitors to the ship with an alternative means of access when the freeboard height is close to the regulation 9.0 meters.

Human factors relating to this report

Alerting  – Be assertive – be positive and constructive and propose a solution

Situational Awareness – Had the bridge team properly considered the current and forecast sea conditions prior to ordering the deployment of this embarkation ladder?


Initial Report (2)

Pilot ladder did not meet SOLAS standards.

The pilot ladder had a broken strand. This was not visible before the pilot started to climb the ladder, as it was located at the top. However, it was clearly visible to the ship’s staff. The Master was advised that the ladder must never be used again and must be taken out of service and destroyed.

Damage to pilot ladder side ropes is often caused by the ladder not being stowed away off the deck in a safe, well-ventilated storage locker. By being left in the open, the ladder is liable to damage by crushing or abrasion or can be damaged by chemicals, or cargo dust residues which can also chemically and physically attack the rope fibres.

Human factors related to this report

Complacency – Check: is everything really ok?

Culture – Does everyone really care about safety? How do you know?

Capability – Is your team capable of spotting defects?


Initial Report (3)

Pilot ladder – poor condition

Comments from reporter: When disembarking from this vessel I found that the ladder appeared well-used, and the chocks and steps were loose. I advised the attending officer that the ladder should be replaced or repaired. The vessel was less than three years old, so I assume it was in use from her maiden voyage. The corrosion on the manufacturer’s plate made it impossible to check details. (See photo)

The pilot agreed to disembark using the new manropes provided but advised against the next pilot using this well-worn ladder.

CHIRP Comment

The chocks supporting the pilot ladder steps are not secured against the steps, allowing the steps to rotate. When the pilot places his foot on the steps there is a risk of slipping from the ladder. This is very dangerous. The ladder must be taken out of service and repaired ashore or replaced.

The MAB members were insistent that the issues with pilot ladders must be tackled vigorously as the problem of sub-standard ladders is not going away. If pilots refused to board ships where boarding arrangements are in a sub-standard condition, this would provide the right level of sanction and ensure that ladders are properly rigged and constructed in future. CHIRP will team up with the International Marine Pilots Association (IMPA) in an attempt to resolve this continuing problem.

Human factors related to this report

Alerting – Do you really speak up when you should?

Capability – Is your team capable – provide on board training?

Complacency – Never assume all is ok.



Report Ends………………..