What has happened since then? Has safety been improved for the pilots?
A look backCapt. Dennis Sherwood, a pilot of Sandy Hook fell backwards off a ladder while boarding a vessel on December 30th of 2019 at 4:30 a.m. and died of his serious injury in Staten Island hospital, according to U.S. Coast Guard reports. A routine investigation of the accident has been initiated.
After the accident, the shipping company Maersk expressed its regret about the fatal accident in a short message distributed on a small maritime website.
"There is a common misunderstanding amongst vessel operators that vessels built prior to 2012 are exempt from some of the requirements for pilot transfer arrangements. This is incorrect...".
The rules for trapdoors have been in place since 1979 and the requirement for the pilot ladder to extend above the lower platform to the height of the handrail has not changed.
What has changed until today?In my opinion: Nothing!
Nothing has been changed on board the Maersk Kensignton, the ship continues to sail with a non-compliant "trapdoor arrangement". Some also speak of a "widow maker". All ships of the Maersk "K-Class" have the same combination ladders. They are not allowed and do not comply with the rules!
The combined arrangement of the pilot ladder and accommodation ladder were contributing factors in the death of the US pilot Capt. Dennis Sherwood, as the Pacific Pilotage Authority (Canada) stated.
But also the local pilots, who have the right to reject a ship if the pilot ladder does not comply with the applicable rules and the ladder is unsafe, do not dare to take the consequences against these trapdoor arrangements. There is also economic pressure here, because no one wants to mess with the powerful shipping company Maersk, which provides employment in the port.
Often it is also - with all due respect - the unawareness of the pilots about the applicable rules in relation to the trapdoor arrangements. Or the pilot says: "We've always done it that way. The vessels of this kind have been coming for years. What's the problem?"
I can never tire of pointing out the problem of non-compliant trapdoor arrangements and supporting all those who are also fighting against these abuses. Especially today, one year after the fatal accident of Capt. Dennis Sherwood. It is time for a change. Now.