In its annual report, UK MAIB referred to pilot ladder incidents and accidents and to the actions that can prevent these accidents.
n particular, the MAIB canvassed 105 UK Competent Harbour Authorities for their 2022 pilot transfer statistics. This revealed that almost 700 marine pilots conducted over 96,000 transfers underway using a pilot ladder, during which there were over 400 incidents or accidents.
Just over half of these were reported to the MAIB, the most serious of which resulted in the pilot suffering a fractured ankle when they lost their grip on the handhold stanchion and fell 3 metres onto the pilot boat. The preliminary assessment found that the vessel’s handhold stanchions were not fit for purpose, as their design prevented the pilot gaining a firm grasp as they reached the top of the ladder.
Analysis of the pilot ladder incidents and accidents reported to the MAIB revealed:
- 25% were because shackles rather than rolling hitches were used to secure the pilot ladder side ropes
- 23% occured because the material condition of the pilot ladder as poor
- 13% happened because handhold stanchions were not fit for purpose
The remaining 39% of reported incidents and accidents involved issues such as the length of the ladder, its position against the hull and incorrect rigging
of the tripping line, among other noncompliance.
Actions to prevent the accidents:
- Check that the pilot ladder is properly rigged
- Inspect the ladder before use: While old ladders are more likely to be in poor condition, new ladders are also at risk of damage; the pilot ladder should be thoroughly checked before each use and replaced or retested after 30 months of service.
- Handhold stanchions must be fit for purpose: The pilot is at particular risk of falling when they transition between the top of the ladder and the vessel’s deck. The handhold stanchion design must allow the pilot a firm grip as they make this transition. The Designated Person Ashore must be notified and arrangements made to fix the issue if the existing on board arrangements do not meet this requirement.
- Continue to report pilot ladder incidents and accidents to the MAIB: It is concerning that MAIB has been unable to undertake full analysis of the cause of pilot ladder incidents and accidents due to little more than half of these occurrences being reported to the branch.
Furthermore, in an exclusive interview to SAFETY4SEA, Andrew Moll, Chief Inspector of the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB), explained the challenges and priorities of investigating marine accidents and trends that have arisen through the branch’s work.