To know if the stanchions provided are made/installed in accordance with the regulations, of course we need to get into the different ‘rulebooks’ we have on stanchions. So, let’s start with the holy grail of pilot transfer regulations: SOLAS ch.V reg 23….
Rule 4 of the same regulation mentions access to deck, well here we come a bit closer to the famous stanchions I guess: …… adequate handholds shall be provided. Again, a bit general, but also here we can conclude: if a pilot falls down, they are quite obviously not adequate.
This is basically all that is mentioned on stanchions in international law, for further details on this topic we’ll now have a look at the IMO resolution on pilot transfer arrangements laid down in IMO A.1045(27) adopted in July 2012.
In rule one (general) this resolution states “ship designers are encouraged to consider all aspects of pilot transfer arrangements at an early stage in design……. “ In the few photos earlier in the article we can clearly see that the stanchions were designed nor placed. Basically, this means the pilot transfer arrangement has not been designed in accordance with regulations, but of course it is nevertheless class approved. I have told this before and I will keep repeating this: whenever a pilot is confronted with a pilot transfer arrangement that is to be considered ‘non-compliant by design’, it means the entire chain of design, construction, classification, surveys, vetting and flag state inspections have failed, resulting into a dangerous setup.
Rule 5 of the resolution mentions some more details on stanchions:
- 7-0.8m apart. Makes sense: people do not have arms of endless lengths
- 2m above deck or bulwark. Makes sense as well, you need a stanchion of this length to prevent falling down
- Minimum diameter 32mm. Also makes sense: when they are too thin, you can’t get a firm grip and your hands might slip
- Each stanchion to be rigidly secured at or near the base and at a higher point, also nice when a stanchion doesn’t break when you put weight on it…
Is it safe? No, it is not safe and therefore non-compliant. Actions taken by the writer of this article were to contact class/psc and owner of the vessel. Together with the owner of the vessel we worked out a solution and now the setup is safe to use. Basically, a waste of time and money when you have to do the job twice. Root cause is obviously that in the design face the rules on pilot transfer arrangements were overlooked or in best case scenario read diagonally and fast.
Despite the good outcome of this case, and many others were some people, let’s call them ‘strange people on a mission’, have assisted to correct wrong set-ups, basically people doing other people’s jobs…
Well now, regarding the thickness of the stanchions, shouldn’t there be a maximum diameter anywhere in the rules to prevent silly designs like the above one?
Yes there is!!
ISO799-3:2021 mentions in rule 8.3 the following on stanchions:
“Each access at the head of a pilot ladder shall have 2 handholds or handhold stanchions fitted. They shall not be less than 0.7m or more than 0.8m apart. Each stanchion or handhold should be rigidly secured to the ship’s structure at or near it’s base and at a higher point, should be round and not less than 32mm and not more than 36mm in diameter and should extend not less than 1.2m above the position it is secured to the ship’s structure.”
Finally, a rule that says it all, when a stanchion is installed in accordance with the above-mentioned rule, it is safe to use. It is also fool proof in my opinion: seems impossible to make a violation following this rule. This again proves that you have to write down every single detail and leave nothing open because otherwise eventually someone will find a way to do it wrong, as we have seen earlier in this article.
I hope this article has brought some clearness in the haziness called stanchions, 6 pages of text and photos on a pair of steel pipes basically. Please have a proper look at the stanchions when you want to board or disembark, it might save your life.
Pleas stay safe and keep coming home vertical and not horizontal