The International Maritime Pilots’ Association (IMPA) is calling on the International Maritime Organization to crack down on a commonly used-yet-dangerous pilot transfer arrangement that may have contributed to the death of a New York ship pilot last month.
The pilot, Captain Dennis Sherwood, a 35-year veteran of the Sandy Hook Pilot Association, was killed after he fell while boarding the U.S.-flagged Maersk Kensington as it arrived at the Port of New York and New Jersey on the morning of December 30.
According to the IMPA, on that morning, the Maersk Kensington was using an arrangement that involved combining a pilot ladder and an accommodation ladder, an arrangement that is apparently not uncommon and actually required when the point of access is more than 9 meters from the water. However, as the IMPA President Captain Simon Pelletie explains in a letter submitted to IMO on January 17, in this particular instance, the arrangement had a sort of “trapdoor” in the bottom of accommodation ladder platform through which the pilot had to climb.
“This requires a pilot to pull himself or herself up through the trapdoor while twiting to get a secure footing on the platform,” Pelletie’s explains in his letter. Pelletie notes that the controversial trapdoor arrangement has long been considered unsafe by pilots, and “clearly” not in compliance with SOLAS requirements.
“Mr. I have considerable personal experience with this arrangement. Hoisting myself up through the trapdoor is extremely difficult – in the best conditions. To be frank, I hate it. And every pilot whom I have every heard talk about it hates it too,” Pelletie says.
The letter goes on to urge the IMO to step up enforcement of IMO pilot transfer standards, particularly as they related to inspection requirements set forth in the 2012 revisions of SOLAS V/23 and its accompanying Resolution A. 1045.
“Captain Sherwood’s death is a tragic reminder that much more needs to be done.
“We raise this particular matter today to urge all flag states, port states, and ship operator organizations t join us to do whatever it takes to get rid of this arrangement, immediately,” urges Pelletie.
The help spread awareness about the dangers associated with pilot transfers, the IMPA is currently running a #DangerousLadders campaign to improve the safety of pilot transfer arrangements and in particular the safe rigging of pilot ladders.