IMO Circular MSC.1/Circ.1428 illustrates the pilot transfer arrangements required by SOLAS V/23.
When using a combination pilot ladder arrangement, the pilot ladder and accommodation ladder are required to be secured to the ship’s side. A common means of securing both the pilot ladder and accommodation ladders is with magnetic pads (refer to photo 1 below as an example).
Photo 1: Example of securing both the pilot ladder and accommodation ladders with magnetic pads (Reproduced with permission from Fremantle Ports).
Clear and efficient communication with the pilot boat master is essential to ensure the safety of the pilot transfer arrangements before a person uses the ladder. The pilot boat master is best positioned to judge correct height of the bottom of the ladder and identify any potential issues with the ladder or ropes once in place.
One common issue found is that the pilot ladder does not extend the required 2.0 m past the accommodation platform when a combination arrangement is used. Photo 2 illustrates an example of a pilot ladder not extending the required height past the platform.
Photo 2: Example of non-compliant combination pilot ladder arrangements.
As shown in photos 2 and 3 persons cannot climb the pilot ladder to a level where they can move safely onto the accommodation ladder.
Photo 3: Person unable to safely access accommodation ladder platform from pilot ladder.
Securing of Pilot Transfer Arrangements
The pilot ladder is normally secured at its thimble end with shackles. However, due to the varying freeboard at specific loading conditions, the pilot ladder cannot always be secured at full length by the thimble ends. Under such circumstances it must be secured at an intermediate length. That can only be done in a safe way by ensuring that the weight of the ladder is transferred from ladder’s side ropes to the approved strong point on deck directly.
The ladder’s steps, spreaders or chocks should not be used to carry the weight of the ladder as they are not designed for this and do not have sufficient strength. For this reason, shackles, bars and tongues should not be used to secure the ladder to the deck. They will damage the ladder and put weight on the parts which are not designed to carry the weight.
Photo 4 shows an example of an unsafe use of shackles to secure pilot ladders.
Photo 4: Unsafe pilot ladder securing arrangements (Reproduced with permission from Fremantle Ports).
Photo 5: Unsafe pilot ladder securing arrangements.
Photos 5 shows the pilot ladder being secured to the strong point by using a shackle passed through the pilot ladder side ropes. This puts increased load on the single part of the side rope and the chock securing arrangements.
It is common industry practice to use a rope stopper usually in the form of a rolling hitch knot between the pilot ladder sides ropes and the approved strong point on the main deck. This will transfer the weight of the ladder arrangement directly onto the designated strong point and will not damage the ladder.
It is suggested that two strong (at least 2 x 24 kN) manila ropes be used to secure the pilot ladder. Photo 6 illustrates a method of tying a rolling hitch knot.
Photo 6: The rolling hitch knot. (Reproduced with permission from Fremantle Ports).
Photo 7 provides an example of rolling hitch knots being used to secure pilot ladders to approved main deck strong points.
Photo 7: Rolling hitch knots being used to secure pilot ladders to approved main deck strong points (Reproduced with permission from Fremantle Ports).