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.

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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.


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