Pilot Ladder Failure Due To Inadequate Maintenance & Inspection

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An incident concerning a pilot ladder that did not meet SOLAS standards.

The incident

On a small cargo ship, a pilot was about to disembark with a good lee. The bottom rung of the pilot ladder was slightly above and clear of the deck of the launch. 

The pilot inspected the ladder as best he could from the main deck to ensure it was properly rigged and secured and free of any obvious defects. All appeared correct.

But as soon as the pilot committed his full weight to the ladder, the ropes on each side of the ladder parted simultaneously at the point where they went over the rounded fishplate at the sheer strake. 

The pilot fell two meters to the deck of the pilot launch, bruising and spraining his right foot and ankle which took the impact of the fall. His injuries could have been much worse had the freeboard of the vessel been greater.

Investigation 

On investigation, it was found that the root cause of the accident was the failure of the pilot ladder due to inadequate maintenance and inspection.

Lesson learnt 

  • Pilot ladders are to be regularly inspected for wear and tear of side ropes, missing wedges, and damages on the steps. 
  • All the steps should be equally spaced between the side ropes and the distance between two steps should be uniform.
  • Steps should be always horizontal. Any faulty steps found should be replaced immediately.
  • The side ropes are made of manila rope. They should be continuous and free from ties and joints below the first step of the pilot ladder. 
  • Once the pilotage operation is over the pilot ladder should be secured instead of left hanging on the ship’s side. 
  • It is to note that Pilot ladders are solely used for the purpose of embarkation and disembarkation of the personnel. It should never be used for any other purpose like draught reading or any other maintenance work. 

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Source: marine insight 

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