The international pilots association Impa is sounding the alarm about unsafe pilot ladders. According to the pilots, a worldwide survey has shown that access to the ship via the pilot's ladder often does not comply with the regulations. In Europe this is even the case in more than 17% of cases. The need for change is great: every year fatalities occur.
Just imagine: transferring from a pilot boat riding the waves to a tall ship. In stormy weather, at night and at dawn. Pilots risk their lives every day for safe shipping. You might think that the equipment should be in top condition and used properly. But the pilots experience that this is not always the case. They come across defective pilot ladders, with slippery or crooked steps and ladders that have been hung up incorrectly, to name but a few.
Of the 3322 reports made during the two-week survey in October, relatively the most poor assessments ('non compliant') came from Europe (166) and Asia/Oceania (122).
What goes wrong according to the Impa pilots? Common faults are a ladder that does not adhere to the hull, broken steps, steps that are not evenly distributed, dirty steps and steps that are not properly attached to the ropework.
Above a height of nine metres, a pilot ladder must be used in combination with a gangway. Otherwise, climbing is no longer responsible. The top part of the ladder must then protrude 1.50 metres above the gangway, which is also regularly not the case.
Palmers observes that it is often not a matter of faulty material, but of incompetent handling by the crew. He also often encounters those who hang up ladders not wearing life jackets. Unacceptable according to Palmers. Look, if someone falls overboard, as happened recently, then the pilot boat crew has to fish the victim out of the water'. What also often happens is that no mate or other person in charge is on deck while climbing aboard. This is mandatory, among other things for communication with the bridge, says Palmers. But sometimes he can understand why things are done this way. They have been loading or unloading in the harbour all day and you see a lonely sailor walk up to them. He doesn't feel like getting his colleague out of bed.
International Pilots Association IMPA
He is also in regular contact with the major shipping companies and provides them with advice.
In its annual report, the Impa makes a comparison with the coronas measures. 'Ships have been quick to introduce precautionary measures. It is commendable that keeping a distance, using mouth masks and washing hands have become standard procedures on board. In contrast, we must unfortunately note that enforcement of the long-standing Solas regulations (on pilot ladders - ed.) is still not improving. Pilots are still being injured or killed during transhipments. As with safety measures around the virus, there needs to be a change in the practice of pilot transfers.'