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Master and Shipping Company Convicted Over Pilot Ladder Failure

broken pilot ladder
Broken ladder which caused a serious injury to the pilot (AMSA)

Published Apr 2, 2024 4:57 PM by The Maritime Executive

 

For the second time in less than a year, the Australia Maritime Safety Authority is reporting the successful conviction of a ship’s master and the shipping company for the failure of a ladder which resulted in injuries to a pilot during a transfer. While these accidents happen periodically, they are rarely prosecuted but, in this instance, the Australian authority is calling these preventable accidents that place the lives of seafarers at significant and unacceptable risk.

“Pilots rely on a ship’s master and crew to properly maintain, stow and rig pilot ladders, and neglecting a pilot ladder can have deadly consequences,” said AMSA Executive Director Operations Michael Drake. He highlighted common issues ranging from ladders that were too short, attempts to combine ladders, and the unsafe use of shackles as well as issues with inspections and maintenance. 

In this instance, a pilot was boarded the Panama-flagged general cargo ship Boshi 58 (12,000 dwt) on May 25, 2023, when the ladder broke during the transfer. The pilot was seriously injured in the incident.  The ship, which was built in 2006, is owned and managed by companies based in Hong Kong.

AMSA reports during the court proceedings, it was established that the pilot ladder had not been checked regularly. It had also been stored improperly which they said lead to degradation.

The master of the vessel and the shipping company Fe Ye Shipping each pled guilty for failing to ensure the pilot transfer arrangements complied with the regulations. The master was fined A$5,300 (US$3,450) and the shipping company A$32,000 (US$20,850).

AMSA focuses on safety issues for vessels and the welfare of crewmembers. They have frequently cited and on occasion banned vessels for repeated safety violations.

Last year, in June 2023, the company also successfully prosecuted a similar situation. The Cyprus-flagged cargo ship AAL Dampier (18,700 dwt) was departing the Port of Fremantle, Australia in 2022 when the pilot fell and was serious injured. AMSA inspectors called the condition of the ladder “shocking” citing the master and ship for improper storage and inspections. In that case the master was fined A$5,500 (US$3,600) for two offenses and the shipping company was fined A$30,500 (US$20,000).

AMSA has also issued a marine notice and safety bulletin on safe pilot transfer arrangements.