It has been observed that there is a lack of standard safe access between the landing hatch and the main deck of the ship, the vertical drop/climb often being many metres. For example, instances have been encountered where there are no proper handholds, and no arrangements to fit stanchions on the hatch top or hatch side to allow for safe handholds. In these cases, the
pilot must slide to the hatch edge in a sitting position and try to find the first foot rung on the coaming side. Not an easy task in any circumstance, and certainly not when the hatch lid is wet and the vessel is rolling.In instances where handholds and stanchions are fitted, other deficiencies have been noted.

Recently, while the pilot was holding the stanchions to descend a hatch coaming, both the stanchions and the stub posts into which they were fitted gave way due to severe corrosion (see below). The pilot fell backwards to the deck some 2.5 metres below. His ‘flying helmet’ probably saved him suffering extensive head injuries when his head hit the deck.

Lessons learned

  • Just as much attention must be given to the detail, safety and quality of helicopter landing areas as to traditional access via the vessel’s side.
  • Safe helicopter access is not just an issue for pilots, but could be critical for crew or rescue workers in an emergency situation.

Source & Image credit: The Nautical Institute/ Mars Reports