Pilot’s death leads to demands that IMO crack down on dangerous ladders

The International Maritime Pilots’ Association (IMPA) has called on the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to stop what the IMPA called a pilot transfer arrangement that was commonly used, but which was dangerous and might have contributed to the death of ship pilot at the Port of New York and New Jersey in December 2019.

Captain Dennis Sherwood, a 35-year veteran of the Sandy Hook Pilot Association, was killed after he fell while boarding US-flagged containership Maersk Kensington (IMO 9333010) as it arrived at the Port of New York and New Jersey on the morning of December 30th 2019.

He sustained injuries after falling from an accommodation ladder and was evacuated to a local hospital. He died shortly after.

The IMPA said that on that morning the Maersk Kensington was using an arrangement that involved combining a pilot ladder and an accommodation ladder, an arrangement that was apparently not uncommon, indeed was required when the point of access was more than nine metres from the water. IMPA President Captain Simon Pelletie said in a letter submitted to IMO on January 17th that in this particular instance the arrangement had a sort of trapdoor in the bottom of accommodation ladder platform, through which the pilot had to climb.

“This requires a pilot to pull himself or herself up through the trapdoor while trying to get a secure footing on the platform,” Pelletie said. He added that the controversial trapdoor arrangement had long been considered unsafe by pilots and that it was not in compliance with SOLAS requirements.

“I have considerable personal experience with this arrangement. Hoisting myself up through the trapdoor is extremely difficult – in the best conditions. To be frank, I hate it. And every pilot whom I have ever heard talk about it hates it too,” Pelletie said.

He urged the IMO to step up enforcement of IMO pilot transfer standards, particularly as they related to inspection requirements in the 2012 revisions of SOLAS V/23 and its accompanying Resolution A. 1045.

2007-built USA-flagged, 74,642 gt Maersk Kensington is owned and managed by Maersk Line Ltd-USA Of Norfolk, Virginia, USA. It is entered with Standard Club (International Division) on behalf of Maersk Line Ltd.