Information and guidance on pilot ladder safety

The International Maritime Pilots’ Association (IMPA) has recently released the results of its Safety Campaign 2007, which focused on pilot ladder safety. The purpose of the campaign was to investigate and highlight the standards of pilot ladders and their associated equipment, after IMPA members witnessed a worrying run of accidents including the deaths of eight (8) pilots and launch crews in 2006. The study revealed that as many as 16.5% of the ships did not fully comply with the IMO regulations. For the full result of the study, please go to IMPA’s website.


As an immediate response to this, INTERTANKO would like to draw members’ attention to the information and guidance given below regarding pilot transfers.


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.


The International Maritime Pilots’ Association (IMPA) has developed a poster which clearly illustrates the requirements. It is recommended that the poster be carried onboard all ships, understood and followed. The poster is available for download here (Courtesy of IMPA).


Further detailed technical specification for pilot ladders can be found in IMO Resolution A.889(21)


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.


The two major causes of accidents are defects in the ladder treads or side ropes or a lack of proper attachment of the ladder to the vessel.


Seafarers should always check the condition of the ladder before it is rigged and also ensure it is secured to the ship. Whilst this is done, seafarers should always take care of their own safety, wearing a life jacket (and a life-line if appropriate).


Shipping companies should ensure that:


  • Ladders are SOLAS compliant;
  • The inspection regime and records are adequate;
  • Replacement ladders are quickly and readily available on board;
  • Seafarers do have necessary training full understanding of the requirements.


The Master and officers should:


  • Closely supervise the rigging of pilot ladders;
  • Closely observe the shipping/landing of pilots from ladders, ensuring that SOLAS requirements are met;
  • Maintain a lee until the pilot vessel is well clear.


Pilots have the right to decline to board vessels offering defective ladders, which can result in serious delay. Pilots are also entitled to report defects in boarding ladders to port state control authorities, which could lead to a full PSC inspection with the risk of delay and financial penalties.


In an effort to minimise accidents with pilot ladders, IMPA, together with the shipping industry, has produced Shipping Industry Guidance on “The rigging of ladders for pilot transfer”.


Contact: Fredrik Larsson