An experienced ship pilot with the Port of London Authority had been drinking before he fell to his death during a pilot transfer on the River Thames last October, according to the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch’s report on the incident.
The accident occurred at 6:12 p.m. on October 5, 2016 as the Port of London Authority pilot was in the process of boarding the Bahamas-registered general cargo ship Sunmi from the pilot launch Patrol. During the transfer, the pilot fell and was crushed between the two vessels. He died at the scene despite prompt medical attention from Royal National Lifeboat Institution and local ambulance crew.
During its investigation, the MAIB found that the pilot had been drinking on the day of the accident, and he had consumed enough alcohol to register a .122% blood alcohol level approximately 2 hours after reporting for duty, which is nearly two and a half times the legal limit. The report said the consumption of alcohol likely contributed to his fall.
“[The Pilot] did not have a known history of alcohol consumption, and nothing has been discovered to provide a motive for his drinking on the day of the accident,” the MAIB report stated. “Further, the MAIB investigation has been unable to trace his movements between 0915 and his arrival at the pilot base at 1645. Therefore, it has not been possible to establish where or why he consumed the alcohol, given that he knew he would be working later in the day. Whatever the reason, to report for work after significant, recent alcohol consumption was a serious misjudgment.”
The MAIB identified several other safety issues as well.
In the report, the MAIB identified that low freeboard pilot transfers involve risks that should be included in risk assessments for boarding and landing, and that the designated pilot boarding station on board Sunmi was not marked and the deck gate should not have been opened in preparation for the transfer as it was unsuitable. Further, the International Maritime Pilots’ Association ‘Required Boarding Arrangements for Pilot’ poster did not include reference to the amendments to pilot transfer arrangements made in IMO Resolution A.1108(29), regarding deck gates, the report stated.
As far as recommendations, the MAIB recommended that the International Maritime Pilots’ Association (2017/139) promulgate the requirements for gateways in vessels’ rails or bulwarks intended for pilot boarding operations by updating its ‘Required Boarding Arrangements For Pilot’ poster to include the amendments in IMO Resolution A.1108(29). A recommendation has also been made to Misje Rederi A.S. (2017/140) to ensure that the designated pilot boarding areas on Sunmi are marked and that pilot boarding operations are overseen by a responsible officer.
The MAIB report said the victim had an “extensive” career at sea and had been with the PLA for a total of 16 years, including 9 years as a sea pilot and 7 as a river pilot.