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Marine Pilot Dies in Pilot Ladder Accident While Boarding Cruise Ship

Diamond Princess
File image courtesy Princess Cruises

Published May 9, 2023 11:58 PM by Paul Benecki

The Japan Coast Guard is investigating the death of a marine pilot during a pilot transfer to a cruise ship off the port of Nagasaki last week. 

On the morning of May 5, the cruise ship Diamond Princess was headed into Nagasaki and awaiting the pilot. At about 0530 the pilot boat approached and the pilot transferred to the rope ladder to board the ship. For reasons that are still under investigation, the pilot fell into the water while climbing the ladder. 

Diamond Princess' crew deployed a rescue boat and launched a search for the pilot. He was wearing a life jacket and was recovered from the water, but was unconscious, and was pronounced dead two hours later. 

Japanese media have identified the pilot as Yoshihiro Osuga, 69. He was an experienced pilot with 15 years in the trade. 

Surface conditions were calm at the time, and the Japan Coast Guard is looking into the possibility that the pilot boat's motion may have been a causal factor. 

The climb from a moving pilot boat up the side of a moving ship involves risk, and pilot ladder accidents are not uncommon. Every year, marine pilots suffer falls into the water or onto the deck of the pilot boat, and all too often these casualties are fatal. In 2020, the Sandy Hook Pilots Association lost two of its members to pilot ladder falls in less than a year, illustrating the danger.