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Near miss: pilot ladder – side rope failed

What happened

Whilst undertaking pilot boarding operations during the hours of darkness, a side rope on the pilot ladder parted when it was being weight tested by the pilot. The pilot was not injured; however if the ladder had not been weight tested by the pilot, it could have failed whilst it was being climbed, resulting in a fall from height into the sea.

The pilot boarding operation was aborted and the vessel directed by the authorities to anchor, resulting in significant operational and commercial delays.

What went wrong – key findings

  • The pilot ladder had not gone through a 30-month strength test because the requirement to do so had not been uploaded into the vessel’s planned maintenance system;
  • It was known that the pilot ladder was in poor condition, but it was decided to continue to use the ladder beyond its operational life knowing that the vessel would soon be de-commissioned;
  • The vessel did not carry a spare / second ladder.

Action taken

  • A Pilot ladder is essential safety equipment and should always be serviceable / available for use;
  • Safety critical equipment should be inspected before use and any deficiencies found should be reported and rectified;
  • The defective pilot ladder was replaced with a new ladder;
  • Carry a minimum of two pilot ladders and replace them every two years;
  • Ensure vessel planned maintenance systems are up to date and include everything that should be included.

Members may wish to refer to

The following documents will be useful:

Safety Event

Published: 18 January 2023
Download: IMCA SF 03/23

Relevant life-saving rules:
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