The Tokyo MOU has issued a safety bulletin warning of the danger to pilots presented by using transfer arrangements that use non-approved methods to secure pilot ladders.
“Persistent reports received from pilots and pilot associations indicate that vessels are improperly securing their pilot ladders to the ship. A large number of reports relate to the use of pilot ladders which are too long relative to the vessel’s draughts”, Tokyo MOU said.
It noted that as a result of this the excessively long ladders required shortening up before being deployed for boarding pilots, which was achieved by ship’s staff using D-shackles to choke the side ropes at the required height along the ladder’s length. In this method, the D-shackle is first secured to a hard point on the deck, such as a pad eye, and the ladder rope threaded through the shackle. By shortening ladders using the D-shackle method causes the weight of the ladder to be taken up by the D-shackle impacting directly against the mechanical securing clamps (widgets) which secure the ladders treads in place, said Tokyo MOU.
It warned that this could eventually damage these widgets and also destroy their seizing. When the seizing was destroyed, or the widget was damaged, this could lead to the adjacent tread becoming loose.
Taking the weight of the ladder onto the widgets caused the widget seizing to become damaged. This led to the steps no longer being held firmly in the horizontal position. This in turn meant that the steps could become free to rotate underfoot when pilots climb the ladder.
The bulletin said that, to avoid vessels being delayed in port, where existing pilot ladders were too long for the expected range of freeboards, Masters had to find an appropriate safe method for securing the ladder at the rope-end thimbles. If the existing arrangement could not be shortened correctly, then masters should consider contacting their local port agent to obtain a shorter ladder for use as required.
- Masters and senior officer should physically check the current method of securing their vessel’s pilot ladders to ensure that crews are not making this rigging mistake.
- They should refer to the ship’s construction drawings to ensure that the actual securing method is the same as the method given in the ship’s drawings, or approved safety management system.
- To avoid vessels being delayed in port, where existing pilot ladders are too long for the expected range of freeboards, Masters must find an appropriate safe method for securing the ladder at the rope-end thimbles. If the existing arrangement cannot be shortened correctly, then masters should consider contacting their local port agent to obtain a shorter ladder for use a required.
- In summary, it is impossible to rig a ladder safely if it is too long for the vessel’s freeboard.