A pilot was disembarking a vessel underway, along with three other persons. Each of the three others descended the pilot ladder in turn, followed by the pilot. No one except the pilot was wearing a lifejacket. On descending, the pilot noticed that the pilot ladder combination setup was irregular and dangerous. The gangway was overlapping the pilot ladder and the platform was not horizontal, making it difficult to cross over. One crew member kept the pilot ladder ropes away from the gangway to provide better access onto the pilot ladder.

As the pilot stepped onto and descended the pilot ladder he slipped several times. He noticed that one of the pilot ladder ropes was lower than the other and the treads were inclined by at least 30°. Aborting the disembarkation would have been even more dangerous so he decided to continue. After everyone was safely on the pilot boat the luggage of the three persons had to be lowered. The total disembarkation took 31 minutes.

Lessons learned:

  • Anyone transferring from a vessel to a pilot boat should wear a lifejacket – this is just common sense.
  • Proper installation of the pilot boarding combination arrangement is crucial for safety. It is easy to get it right, but also easy to get it wrong!

For guidance, please refer to IMO document MSC.1/Circ.1428 ‘Required boarding arrangements for pilots’.

(Reproduced from MARS report 201965)

The Nautical Institute’s Mariners' Alerting and Reporting Scheme (MARS) regularly delivers safety alerts resulting from recent incidents for the consideration of mariners on board. The MARS database is a valuable risk assessment, work planning, loss prevention tool and training aid for crew and management.

Seagull Maritime AS delivers a number of e-learning safety training programs and learning films that focus on safety and good handling practice around pilot boarding operations.  Please contact your Training Manager for more information.


Seagull Maritime offers e-learning module and learning film on this important topic, please use the below buttons to learn more:

# 0500 Pilot ladders

E-learning module

#2515 Pilot ladders

NEW Learning film


Seagull also have a useful info graphic about the topic, please use the below button to download the PDF:

Pilot Ladder Info Graphic