WATCHOUT Safety on the ropes

02 Feb 2022 The Navigator

In this series, we take a look at issues around maritime accidents and the lessons that can be learned. Captain Kevin Vallance MNI, licensed deep sea Pilot, looks at how sharing information online can lead to better rope ladder safety compliance

Although use of rope ladders in the year 2022 might seem antiquated, it remains the predominant means of effecting a Pilot transfer. The #dangerousladders project is a closed group on Facebook. The aims of the project are to improve the safety of Pilot transfer arrangements. There are approximately 4,000 members from around the world. Anyone is free to apply to join the group and the administrators reject very few applicants. In addition to serving seafarers, members include port authority officials, vessel superintendents, flag state inspectors and Pilot ladder manufacturers – to name but a few.

Despite SOLAS Regulation 23 being reviewed and revised in 2012, Pilots are still encountering non-compliant, unsafe arrangements on far too many occasions. Each instance of non-compliance has potential for serious injury or worse.

On the Facebook page, members are free to post photographs, which hopefully lead to active discussion and improvement. It is not the aim of the group to ‘name and shame’ offenders, but rather to identify problems and offer solutions through positive engagement and education. It is a fact that the vast majority of deficiencies are easily and quickly resolved by ship staff.

Information sharing
Two areas where the group has made positive contributions include the sharing of information in how to correctly rig a retrieval line and how to secure a Pilot ladder using a rolling hitch. Members of the group have contributed written articles to many industry publications globally. In addition, one of our administrators gave a well-received webinar to Pilots in Africa earlier this year.

There is still much work to be done around Pilot transfer arrangements. For example, scientific laboratory tests are being carried out to investigate different methods of securing Pilot ladders at intermediate lengths. This work is being funded by the International Maritime Pilots Association, following preliminary work by one of our members.