Tokyo MOU warns of dangers of improperly secured pilot ladders

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Pilot ladder incorrectly secured to the deck using D-shackles to choke the side ropes (Image: Tokyo MOU).

The Tokyo MOU has issued a safety bulletin warning of the danger to pilots presented by using transfer arrangements that use non-approved methods to secure pilot ladders.

It says that persistent reports received from pilots and pilot associations indicate that vessels are improperly securing their pilot ladders to the ship. A large number of reports relate to the use of pilot ladders that are too long relative to the vessel’s drafts. As a result the excessively long ladders require shortening up before being deployed for boarding pilots.

In these cases, pilot ladders are shortened up by ship’s staff using D-shackles to choke the side ropes at the required height along the ladder’s length.

In this method, the D-shackle is first secured to a hard point on the deck, such as a pad eye, and the ladder rope threaded through the shackle. By shortening ladders using the D-shackle method causes the weight of the ladder to be taken up by the D-shackle impacting directly against the mechanical securing clamps (widgets) that secure the ladders treads in place.

This can eventually damage these widgets and also destroys their seizing. When the seizing is destroyed, or the widget is damaged, this can lead to the adjacent tread becoming loose By taking the weight of the ladder onto the widgets causes the widget seizing to become damaged. This leads to the steps no longer being held firmly in the horizontal position. This in turn means that the steps can become free to rotate underfoot as the pilots climb the ladder.

The bulletin says that to avoid vessels being delayed in port, where existing pilot ladders are too long for the expected range of freeboards, Masters must find an appropriate safe method for securing the ladder at the rope-end thimbles. If the existing arrangement cannot be shortened correctly, then masters should consider contacting their local port agent to obtain a shorter ladder for use as required.

In summary, says the bulletin, you cannot rig your ladder safely if it is too long for your vessel’s freeboard.

Read the safety bulletin HERE

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