Pilot Embarkation Platforms: Kevin Valance


Photograph 1: ‘Embarkation platform’.Kevin Vallance

During the transit time on the pilot launch between the shore and the vessel, pilots will spend at least a portion of that time carrying out (either consciously or subconsciously) a risk assessment of the forthcoming operation.

Most pilots will be using a pilot launch they are familiar with, surrounded by a crew they know in an area that can at times seem like a second home. The vessel they are boarding may be one they have worked before and hopefully the pilot transfer arrangement will be compliant with current IMO requirements.

However, this is not always the case. Last autumn due to severe weather conditions in the North Atlantic a container vessel which regularly uses the services of Hammonds deep sea pilotage was weather routed to enter the North Sea via the Pentland Firth.

Travel arrangements were made, because it was the weekend there were only limited flights available, so it was 12 hours on a train and a night in a hotel. A bright Sunday morning with a stiff breeze and a couple of metres swell was no problem on the tug supplied for the short run out from the harbour.

After the pilot transfer was ‘safely completed’ the vessel set off on her passage towards Bremerhaven.

Photograph 1 shows the combination ladder arrangement provided with a trapdoor in the bottom platform, SOLAS refers to this as an ’embarkation platform’.

During the passage I had time for a fuller reflection of the condition of the ladder arrangement provided:

• On approaching the vessel it was observed that the pilot ladder being used, in a combination ladder arrangement, was a little high. The boat coxswain requested the ladder be lowered, which happened instantaneously. This action clearly illustrated that the accommodation ladder was not secured to the vessel, a requirement of SOLAS V Chapter 23.

• Although it’s not clear to see on the photograph the retrieval line is rigged leading aft and at the wrong height, making it noncompliant with SOLAS.

• Photograph 2 shows the pilot ladder securing arrangement, which is directly onto the embarkation platform structure. Just above the height of the platform a 100mm box section is welded to the platform. The pilot ladder side ropes are behind this box section, which hampers the pilot’s climb.

platform 1

Photograph 2: Kevin Vallance

• When approaching the top of the pilot ladder it is necessary to manoeuvre through approximately 90° to transfer to the platform. IMO Resolution A 1045 requires that the minimum size of the access hole should be 750mm X 750mm. This regulation also requires that stanchions be provided with a spacing of not more than 800mm, and the arrangement seen here had no outboard stanchion to assist the pilot when making the transfer across.

• Pilots who persist in carrying a bag when climbing a pilot ladder may find it tricky when ascending through the platform door.

This particular vessel and its pilot transfer arrangement were constructed in 2014, well after the 2012 date which would have allowed it, under the so called ‘grandfathering clause’, to be not required to comply with the revised regulations which came into force in July 2015.

How have a major European Classification Society and a UK based P&I club allowed such a system to be certified and used?

Leave a Reply

UK Maritime Pilots' Association
European Maritime Pilots' Association
Internation Pilots' Association SITE SPONSORS
Navicom Dynamics
OMC International