Pilot Ladder Safety


The pilot ladder is a special type of rope ladder used on board ships for embarkation and disembarkation of maritime pilots. The pilot ladder should, therefore, be maintained in good condition and rigged properly for safer transfer of personnel. Even the minutest negligence can lead to a major mishap.

Rigging the ladder


  • Ensure that the ladder is properly made fast and is made fast to an appropriate ring bolt/cleat or sturdy part of the ship and that the tie ropes are free from chafe.
  • Place the ladder in an area where the hull provides a smooth perpendicular surface that ensures the ladder rests flat against the ship’s side at all times. 
  • Have a responsible officer at the ladder to oversee the operation and maintain communications with the bridge in case of an incident.
  • Ensure that the correct equipment is available at the rail where the ladder is affixed. Stanchions must be secured and not free to easily move. 
  • At night, place the ladder in a well-illuminated area. 
  • Check the height required above the water with the pilots. 
  • If in doubt, refer to the IMO/IMPA. 


  • Use the ladder spreaders jammed between the ship’s rails to affix the ladder.
  • Use your feet to jam the ladder into position. The weight of any pilot will displace the ladder and cause injury to all the parties involved.
  • Use a pilot ladder that has damaged steps, spreaders, ropes that are chafed, damaged or showing wear.
  • Allow an inexperienced person to rig the pilot ladder.


  • Making the ladder too short. 
  • Rigging the ladder on or near to shipside outfalls. 
  • Rigging the ladder too close to the ship’s stern or focsle. 

If using the pilot ladder in tandem with an accommodation ladder, always ensure that:

  • The pilot ladder is easily accessible to the accommodation ladder.
  • The accommodation ladder platform is at the correct angle, properly supported, free of obstructions and non-slip.
  • The accommodation ladder rails or hand ropes are properly secured and tight.
  • The accommodation ladder is properly rigged with secure stanchions, is clean, and the hand ropes or rails are oil-free.
  • The accommodation ladder is rigidly secured to the ship’s hull.

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