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Pilot Transfer Arrangements - AMSA Notice 04/2023 – Update – 21/08/2023

SSM Roundel

Steamship Mutual

Published: July 07, 2023

Pilots play a pivotal role in ensuring safe passage of vessels through critical, often hazardous, waterways. They provide an important service to the maritime industry, greatly contributing to the safety and efficiency of surface navigation. 

The process involved with embarkation and disembarkation comes with underlying risks as climbing up or down a pilot ladder can be perilous, even in the calmest conditions. The ladder, which is often combined with an accommodation ladder, allows the pilot to ascend from the pilot cutter onto the ship, or vice versa. The safety aspects of pilot transfer arrangements are critical, and the method for securing these ladders is key for the Pilot's protection throughout the transfer operation. 

All aspects of pilotage operations must adhere to safety standards and laws. This includes adhering to the requirements of SOLAS Regulation V/23 and IMO Resolutions A.1045(27) and A.1108(29), which establish minimum equipment standards and pilot transfer arrangements. 

A manufacturer's declaration that a pilot ladder complies with SOLAS V/23 or "with an international standard acceptable to the Organization" is necessary. ISO 799-1:2019, which deals with pilot ladder design and construction standards, is also mentioned. When a manufacturer verifies that its pilot ladder fulfils either the IMO or ISO standard, the provision in SOLAS V/23 is considered to be satisfied.  

The newest maritime advisory 04/2023 – Pilot Transfer Arrangements issued by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) reminds industry stakeholders of the need for providing and maintaining safe transfer arrangements for Pilots. It is the result of various incidents over the last few years that have put pilots' lives in danger, as well as AMSA receiving many incident reports on safety concerns regarding pilot transfer arrangements. 

The most recent notice is both broad and comprehensive, outlining and directly referencing transfer arrangement requirements including IMO and MSC criteria, inspection and maintenance procedures, responsibilities during these operations, and implementation of these standards in Australian waters. It involves following Marine Order 21 as well as various other technical criteria. 

It goes on to give examples of what AMSA considers to be compliant and non-compliant during port state control inspections. They also identify the possible availability of compliant pilot ladders in Australia as "limited" and encourage operators that compliant spares should be on board vessels to avoid any delays. 

Reminders of proper securing arrangements are also highlighted. This includes the use of magnetic pads to secure the pilot ladder and accommodation ladder arrangement to the ship's hull. Furthermore, if an accommodation ladder is used in combination with a pilot ladder, the pilot ladder shall extend at least 1.5 metres beyond the accommodation platform. This will allow the Pilot to safely transition from the ladder to the accommodation ladder.   

Common concerns with pilot ladders are also discussed. This includes the unsafe use of shackles to secure pilot ladders and references the benefit of the rolling hitch knot being used to secure pilot ladders to approved main deck strong points. It goes on to advise that ladders and arrangements should be inspected on a regular basis, to ensure that any equipment utilised during the transfer process is free of any flaws that could potentially endanger any individual using the ladder. 

The Marine Notice goes on to emphasize and remind us all that:

“Responsibility for safe practices for personnel transfers rests with each person involved in the activity including the ship owners, operators, master and crew, pilotage providers, pilots and pilot boat crew, as well as the person being transferred.” 

The IMO/IMPA Pilot Ladder Poster contains more information about pilotage transfer arrangements.

Translations available in Chinese and Tagalog.

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