Pilot Boarding Arrangements (Pilot Transfer Arrangements)

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Pilots come aboard ship to assist the crew during the most critical and potentially hazardous phases of a voyage. Qualified pilots possess particular local knowledge and have the necessary ship-handling skills to assist the safe arrival and departure of vessels. Normally, pilots board and disembark using a traditional rope ladder from and to a pilot boat. However, this can be a very dangerous procedure if those involved do not adhere to International Maritime Organisation (IMO) standards or fail to practise acceptable seamanship skills. A number of pilots have died as a result of accidents while boarding/disembarking from ships, and many more have been seriously injured.

Ensuring the safe boarding of Pilots, the IMO Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS Chapter V, Regulation 23) sets out the principal requirements for the rigging of pilot ladders.

There is further detailed technical specification for pilot ladders in IMO Resolution A.1045(27). Shipping companies have a legal obligation to provide a conforming ladder and ship-borne fittings. If seafarers are uncertain about any of the requirements, they should always ask their supervising officer for advice.

Ships constructed after the 1 July 2012 must comply with the new equipment and arrangement requirements of SOLAS Regulation V/23. Equipment and arrangements replaced on or after the 1 July 2012 on existing ships, shall, so far is reasonable and practicable, comply with the requirements of this regulation.

These requirements include the securing of an accommodation ladder to the ship’s side, when used in conjunction with the pilot ladder, and the prohibited use of mechanical pilot hoists.

Application

According to SOLAS Chapter V Regulation 23, Pilot transfer arrangements applies to all ships engaged on voyages in the course of which pilots may be employed
Equipment and arrangements for pilot transfer which are installed on or after 1 July 2012 shall comply with the requirements of SOLAS Chp V/ Reg 23 and due regard shall be paid to the standards adopted by the Organisation.
Except as provided otherwise, equipment and arrangements for pilot transfer which are provided on ships before 1 July 2012 shall at least comply with the requirements of regulation 17 or 23. as applicable, of the Convention in force prior to that date. and due regard shall be paid to the standards adopted by the Organisation prior to that date.
Equipment and arrangements installed on or after 1 July 2012, which are a replacement of equipment and arrangements provided on ships before 1 July 2012, comply with the requirements of Regulation 23 of Chapter V.

IMO Resolution A.1045(27) (Interpretation of SOLAS Chp V, Reg 23)

Pillot Ladders

A pilot ladder should be certified by the manufacturer as complying with this section or with the requirements of an international standard acceptable to the IMO.

Construction of Pilot Ladder

  • The steps of the pilot ladders should comply with the following requirements:
    • shall be made of hardwood (Ash, Oak, Beech, Teak, and other hardwood having equivalent properties), they should be made in one piece, free of knots;
    • if made of material other than hardwood, they should be of equivalent strength, stiffness and durability to the satisfaction of the Administration;
    • the four lowest steps may be of rubber of sufficient strength and stiffness or other material to the satisfaction of the Administration;
    • they should have an efficient non-slip surface;
    • they should be not less than 400 mm between the side ropes, 115 mm wide and 25 mm in depth, excluding any non-slip device or grooving;
    • they should be equally spaced not less than 310 mm or more than 350 mm apart; and
    • they should be secured in such a manner that each will remain horizontal.
      The Pilot Ladder should not have more than two replacement steps which are secured in position by a method different from that used in the original construction of the ladder, and
    • any steps so secured should be replaced as soon as reasonably practicable by steps secured in position by the method used in the original construction of the pilot ladder.
Pilot-Boarding-Arrangements-for-Freeboard-less-than-9-m
  • When any replacement step is secured to the side ropes of the pilot ladder by means of grooves in the sides of the step, such grooves should be in the longer sides of the step.
  • Pilot ladders with more than five steps should have spreader steps not less than 1.8 m long provided at such intervals as will prevent the pilot ladder from twisting.
  • The lowest spreader step should be the fifth step from the bottom of the ladder and the interval between any spreader step and the next should not exceed nine steps.
  • When a retrieval line is considered necessary to ensure the safe rigging of a pilot ladder, the line should be fastened at or above the last spreader step and should lead forward. The retrieval line should not hinder the pilot nor obstruct the safe approach of the pilot boat.
  • A permanent marking should be provided at regular intervals (e.g. 1 m) throughout the length of the ladder consistent with ladder design, use and maintenance in order to facilitate the rigging of the ladder to the required height.

Accomodation Ladders used in conjunction with Pilot Ladders

Pilot-Transfer-Arrangements-Combination-Ladder
  • When Accommodation Ladders used in conjunction with Pilot Ladders, the arrangements shall vary according to the type of ships may be accepted, provided that they are equally safe.
  • The length of the accommodation ladder should be sufficient to ensure that its angle of slope does not exceed 45°. In ships with large draft ranges, several pilot ladder hanging positions may be provided, resulting in lesser angles of slope.
  • The accommodation ladder should be at least 600 mm in width.
  • The lower platform of the accommodation ladder should be in a horizontal position and secured to the ship’s side when in use. The lower platform should be a minimum of 5 m above sea level.
  • Intermediate platforms, if fitted, should be self-levelling. Treads and steps of the accommodation ladder should be so designed that an adequate and safe foothold is given at the operative angles.
  • The ladder and platform should be equipped on both sides with stanchions and rigid handrails, but if hand-ropes are used they should be tight and properly secured. The vertical space between the handrail or hand-rope and the stringers of the ladder should be securely fenced.
  • The pilot ladder should be rigged immediately adjacent to the lower platform of the accommodation ladder and the upper end should extend at least 2 m above the lower platform.
  • The horizontal distance between the pilot ladder and the lower platform should be between 0.1 and 0.2 m.
  • If a trapdoor is fitted in the lower platform to allow access from and to the pilot ladder, the aperture should not be less than 750 mm x 750 mm. The trapdoor should open upwards and be secured either flat on the embarkation platform or against the rails at the aft end or outboard side of the platform and should not form part of the handholds. In this case the after part of the lower platform should also be fenced with stanchions and rigid handrails, and the pilot ladder should extend above the lower platform to the height of the handrail and remain in alignment with and against the ship’s side.
  • Accommodation ladders, together with any suspension arrangements or attachments fitted and intended for use as Combination Ladder should comply SOLAS Regulation II-1/3-9 and should be to the satisfaction of the  Administration

Mechanical Pilot Hoists

The use of mechanical pilot hoists is prohibited by SOLAS Regulation V/23

Access to Deck

  • Proper means should be provided to ensure safe, convenient and unobstructed passage for any person embarking on, or disembarking from, the ship between the head of the pilot ladder, or of any accommodation ladder, and the ship’s deck; such access should be gained directly by a platform securely guarded by handrails.
  • Passage for access to deck shall:
    • a gateway in the rails or bulwark, adequate handholds should be provided at the point of embarking on or disembarking from the ship on each side which should be not less than 0.7 m or more than 0.8 m apart.
    • have each handhold rigidly secured to the ship’s structure at or near its base and also at a higher point, not less than 32 mm in diameter and extend not less than 1.2 m above the top of the bulwarks. Stanchions or handrails should not be attached to the bulwark ladder;
    • have a bulwark ladder securely attached to the ship to prevent overturning. Two handhold stanchions should be fitted at the point of embarking on or disembarking from the ship on each side which should be not less than 0.7 m or more than 0.8 m apart.
    • The horizontal distance between the handrails and/or the handgrips should be not less than 0.7 m or more than 0.8 m apart.

Safe approach of the Pilot Boat

Rubbing bands or other constructional features might prevent the safe approach of a pilot boat, these should be cut back to provide at least 6 metres of unobstructed ship’s side.

Specialised offshore ships less than 90 m or other similar ships less than 90 m for which a 6 m gap in the rubbing bands would not be practicable, as determined by the Administration, do not have to comply with this requirement.

In this case, other appropriate measures should be taken to ensure that persons are able to embark and disembark safely.

Installation of Pilot Ladder Winch Reels

Point of Access to Pilot Ladder Winch Reels

When a pilot ladder winch reel is provided for pilot transfer arrangements, it should be situated at a position which will ensure persons embarking on, or disembarking from, the ship between the pilot ladder and the point of access to the ship, have safe, convenient and unobstructed access to or egress from the ship.
The point of access to or egress from the ship may be by a ship’s side opening, an accommodation ladder when a combination arrangement is provided, or a single section of pilot ladder.
The access position and adjacent area should be clear of obstructions, including the pilot ladder winch reel, for distances as follows:

  • a distance of 915 mm in width measured longitudinally;
  • a distance of 915 mm in depth, measured from the ship’s side plating inwards; 
  • a distance of 2,200 mm in height, measured vertically from the access deck.

Physical positioning of pilot ladder winch reels

  • Pilot ladder winch reels are generally fitted on the ship’s upper (main) deck or at a ship’s side opening which may include side doors, gangway locations or bunkering points. Winch reels fitted on the upper deck may result in very long pilot ladders.  The winch reels shall be:
    • situated at a location on the upper deck from which the pilot ladder is able to be suspended vertically, in a straight line, to a point adjacent to the ship side opening access point or the lower platform of the accommodation ladder;
    • situated at a location which provides a safe, convenient and unobstructed passage for any person embarking on, or disembarking from, the ship between the pilot ladder and the place of access on the ship;
    • situated so that safe and convenient access is provided between the pilot ladder and the ship’s side opening by means of a platform which should extend outboard from the ship’s side for a minimum distance of 750 mm, with a longitudinal length of a minimum of 750 mm. The platform should be securely guarded by handrails;
    • safely secure the pilot ladder and manropes to the ship’s side at a point on the ships side at a distance of 1,500 mm above the platform access point to the ship side opening or the lower platform of the accommodation ladder;
    • if a combination arrangement is provided, then have the accommodation ladder secured to the ship’s side at or close to the lower platform so as to ensure that the accommodation ladder rests firmly against the ship’s side.
  • Pilot ladder winch reels fitted inside a ship’s side opening should:
    • be situated at a position which provides a safe, convenient and unobstructed passage for any person embarking on, or disembarking from, the ship between the pilot ladder and the place of access on the ship;
    • be situated at a position which provides an unobstructed clear area with a minimum length of 915 mm and minimum width of 915 mm and minimum vertical height of 2,200 mm; and
    • if situated at a position which necessitates a section of the pilot ladder to be partially secured in a horizontal position on the deck so as to provide a clear access as described above, then allowance should be made so that this section of the pilot ladder may be covered with a rigid platform for a minimum distance of 915 mm measured horizontally from the ship’s side inwards. 

Securing of the Pilot Ladder

Where the pilot ladder is stowed on a pilot ladder winch reel which is located either within the ship’s side opening or on the upper deck:

  • the pilot ladder winch reel should not be relied upon to support the pilot ladder when the pilot ladder is in use;
  • the pilot ladder should be secured to a strong point, independent of the pilot ladder winch reel;
  • the pilot ladder should be secured at deck level inside the ship side opening or, when located on the ship’s upper deck, at a distance of not less than 915 mm measured horizontally from the ship’s side inwards.

Mechanical securing of Pilot Ladder Winch Reel

  • All pilot ladder winch reels should have means of preventing the winch reel from being accidentally operated as a result of mechanical failure or human error.
  • Pilot ladder winch reels may be manually operated or, alternatively, powered by either electrical, hydraulic or pneumatic means.
  • Manually operated pilot ladder winch reels should be provided with a brake or other suitable arrangements to control the lowering of the pilot ladder and to lock the winch reel in position once the pilot ladder is lowered into position.
  • Electrical, hydraulic or pneumatically driven pilot ladder winch reels should be fitted with safety devices which are capable of cutting off the power supply to the winch reel and thus locking the winch reel in position.
  • Powered winch reels should have clearly marked control levers or handles which may be locked in a neutral position.
  • A mechanical device or locking pin should also be utilised to lock powered winch reels.

References