How to recognise a fake pilot ladder

by Gary Clay - published on 4 May 2023 575 -

Picture by Gary Clay (from LinkedIn)

I had a recent conversation with a director of safety and compliance at a major shipping company. He asked me how do I tell my guys to spot a fake ladder?

My first answer was "Simply buy your ladders from a reputable company such as PTR Holland Group and you won't need to"

"Ok, ok" he said "How do we spot if we currently have any counterfeit ladders in the company as of today?"

So what is a counterfeit?
A counterfeit ladder is a pilot ladder that purports to be a genuine approved ladder, from a manufacturer that has been certified by an approved body in the manufacture of pilot ladders to a certified standards.

In most cases that standard is most likely ISO799:1 2019

So I have a certificate! Does that prove I have an authentic ladder? Sadly no that simply shows that the person that sold you the ladder has access to a printer.

This doesn't mean it's impossible to spot a fake but it's certainly not always a straightforward case.

In terms of the ladder, quality is the main indication. The manila rope is usually quite hairy and not very neatly presented. If metal clamps are used they are usually quite thin, lightweight and have sharp non-rounded edges. If the ropes are seized it's invariably done with cheap 'hairy string' rather than three-ply tarred marline.

The chocks tend to look like cheap plastic and commonly will not be effective in keeping the ladder steps from rotating. The whole feel of a fake #shipping ladder is "CHEAP' and this is because they are. The fraudsters need to turn a profit from these ladders so are forced to use inferior, cheaper materials.

As a pilot who has climbed his fair share of ladders in the last 21 years you get a 'nose' for a fake. They instantly feel stretchy, the ropes lack density and if they have been in service for any length of time the cheap components tend to show wear and tear such as loose chocks and sharp damaged metal clamps.

In terms of the certificate it's not always instantly noticeable that you have a fake. However upon careful inspection you will invariably find spelling mistakes.

A recent certificate claimed it was 'Approved by SOLAS' inferring that SOLAS was an authorising body rather than a set of standards.

Remember a pilot ladder certificate should as a very minimum have:
  • 1. The name and address of the manufacturer
  • 2. The serial number
  • 3. The model and length of the ladder
  • 4. The date of manufacture
  • 5. The vessels name
  • 6. The standards, resolutions and regulations to which the ladder complies (eg. SOLAS 74 Reg. V/23 & SOLAS 74 Reg. X/3, IMO Res. A.1045(27), IMO Res. MSC/Circ. 1428, ISO 799:1 2019)
  • 7. The certifying authority
But ultimately I'd stick with my first piece of advice - buy right, get right!

P.S. Pilotage is currently one of the deadliest jobs. But it doesn’t have to be! That’s why I co-founded Fathom Safety, a company dedicated to safe pilot transfers. We are on a mission to improve pilot safety. But we can only do it with YOUR help.
Editor's note:
Opinion pieces reflect the personal opinion of individual authors. They do not allow any conclusions to be drawn about a prevailing opinion in the respective editorial department. Opinion pieces might be deliberately formulated in a pronounced or even explicit tone and may contain biased arguments. They might be intended to polarise and stimulate discussion. In this, they deliberately differ from the factual articles you typically find on this platform, written to present facts and opinions in as balanced a manner as possible.
21 years as a pilot. 10 years of consultancy active marine pilot - ABP - Humber Estuary Services

A marine pilot for 21 years and 10 years as a marine consultant. I specialise in port development, planning, simulation, accident investigation and anything pilotage related.

Join the conversation...

Login or register to write comments and join the discussion!
Master Mariner of the Seas. Unlimited license.MOT Israel. Marine&Docking Pilot. Simon Hadar Israel
on 6 May 2023, 05:25 UTC

The distance between the steps of the ladder is so large that it gives you the feeling that you are falling between the steps.

Master Mariner of the Seas. Unlimited license.MOT Israel. Marine&Docking Pilot. Simon Hadar Israel
on 6 May 2023, 05:25 UTC

The distance between the steps of the ladder is so large that it gives you the feeling that you are falling between the steps.


Video M+ Maritime I ECDIS Safety Settings | Full Video | Episode 1

published on 11 July 2020

M+ releases the 1st video of ECDIS competency series on “Safety Settings” presented by Safe Lanes. Use them for training crew, enhance safety standards & professional knowledge. Stay tuned for our upcoming series on ECDIS competency, Anchor losses, Incidents, PCS & vetting preparations & Human Elements training. These “first of it's kind” learning videos are based on PSC & vetting observations to provide solutions & enhance your professional competency. Pls feel free to connect to get a...


Video How A Pilot Boards A Ship

published on 27 September 2020

Watch and learn how a pilot boards a container ship before entering port.
In this video, a container ship bound for Houston, Texas is boarded by a Houston Pilot before entering the Houston Ship Channel.
#maritime #HoustonPilots #houstonshipchannel


Article PTR Holland offers free pilot ladder load test

published on 1 December 2021

Register your pilot or embarkation ladder today and receive a free 30 months mandatory load test, when the ladders been delivered to one of our factories in Rotterdam, Singapore, New Castle UK or Houston Texas.


Video When a pilot boarding is aborted

published on 27 January 2022

Wind was blowing strong from the NE and the waves were becoming bigger and bigger by the time we reach a new client.
Crew didn't consider the rolling effect about to happen while changing heading in order to give lee when they prepared pilot ladder, so the requested 1.5m above the water was not that good.
I decided to abort and to give the vessel the chance to shorten it. In the next attempt they did it right and I was able to board safe


Video Climbing Pilot Ladder - 360° video in all directions

by River Pilot Kris De Decker - published on 5 October 2022

Editors note: Great video with a brilliant technique: Move your phone while watching and see the different angles of the full 360 degree view. Amazing!
A big thank you to Kris de Decker.


Article Pilot on the bridge

by Gard AS - published on 14 October 2021

A good working relationship with the pilot, effective Master Pilot Information Exchange at the start of the pilotage followed by well performing Bridge Resource Management during the pilotage passage, are important factors in a successful pilotage.


Article Update: Guidance to ships for safe Rigging of Pilot Ladders (1st May)

by AIMPA - All India Marine Pilots' Association - published on 1 May 2021

Version from 1st May 2021: Ships that require the services of a pilot need to ensure that the Pilot Transfer Arrangements (PTA) they provide are in compliance with the requirements prescribed under SOLAS V/23 and IMO Resolution A.1045(27) [as amended by IMO Resolution A.1108(29)].


Article NTSB investigation: Collision of LNG carrier with tank barge linked to pilot’s actions

published on 2 April 2021

The LNG carrier ‘Genesis River’ collided with a 297-foot-long tank barge being pushed ahead by the 69-foot-long towing vessel ‘Voyager’, spilling petrochemical cargo into the waterway and capsizing a barge.


Video How the MSC ZOE lost its containers (Simulation by Marin.nl)

published on 29 June 2020

Language ENGLISH!
MARIN has done model tests with a model of the msc Zoe in one of its test facilities, to find out what caused the msc Zoe to lose containers and how we can prevent this in the future.