Master and Shipping Company Convicted Over Pilot Ladder Failure

published on 4 April 2024 1286 -

(AMSA) Broken ladder which caused a serious injury to the pilot

For the second time in less than twelve months, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority has announced the successful legal action against a ship's master and the shipping company due to a defective ladder, leading to a pilot's injury during transfer. Such incidents occur from time to time but are seldom brought to court. However, in this case, the Australian authorities are treating these accidents as preventable events that significantly and unjustifiably endanger seafarers' lives.

“Pilots rely on a ship’s master and crew to properly maintain, stow and rig pilot ladders, and neglecting a pilot ladder can have deadly consequences,” stated Michael Drake, AMSA Executive Director of Operations. He pointed out frequent problems, including insufficiently long ladders, improper ladder combinations, and the hazardous use of shackles, alongside inspection and maintenance deficiencies.

On this occasion, a pilot was boarding the Panama-flagged Boshi 58 general cargo vessel (12,000 dwt) on May 25, 2023, when the ladder failed during the transfer, causing severe injuries to the pilot. The ship, constructed in 2006, is under the ownership and management of Hong Kong-based companies.

During the trial, it was revealed that the pilot ladder hadn't been routinely inspected and had been stored incorrectly, leading to its deterioration.

Both the ship's master and the Fe Ye Shipping company admitted their failure to comply with the pilot transfer safety regulations. The master received a fine of A$5,300 (US$3,450), and the shipping company was fined A$32,000 (US$20,850).

AMSA's commitment extends to vessel safety and crew welfare, often penalizing and sometimes banning ships for repeated safety infractions.

In a similar event in June 2023, the Cyprus-flagged AAL Dampier cargo ship (18,700 dwt) was leaving the Port of Fremantle, Australia in 2022 when a pilot sustained serious injuries from a fall. AMSA inspectors condemned the ladder's condition as appalling, resulting in fines for both the master and the shipping company for inadequate storage and inspection practices. The master was fined A$5,500 (US$3,600) for two violations, and the shipping company, A$30,500 (US$20,000).

Additionally, AMSA has disseminated a marine notice and safety bulletin regarding safe pilot transfer procedures.
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