Handholds and Stanchions

Solas V Reg 23 section 4 regulates “Access to deck”. In this section the use of handholds and stanchions is made mandatory . The technical aspects of these regulations can be found in the guidelines IMO 1045 section 5.

The difference between handholds and stanchions, and which of the two should be used, can easily be determined as follows:

1: Handholds should be provided when a gateway is used. The description of the dimensions of these handholds is very specific and therefore easy to follow:

  1. They should be between 0.7 and 0.8 meters apart
  2. They should be rigidly secured at the base and at a higher point
  3. They should have a diameter ( so they should be round!) of not less than 32mm
  4. They should be a minimum of 1.2 meters high
Main features of the handholds

2: Handhold Stanchions should be used whenever a bulwark is used for access. The requirements (1 – 4 as mentioned above) for these stanchions are the same as the ones used for handholds:

  1. They should be between 0.7 and 0.8 meters apart
  2. They should be rigidly secured at the base and at a higher point
  3. They should have a diameter ( so they should be round!) of not less than 32mm
  4. They should be a minimum of 1.2 meters high above the bulwark.
Main features of the Handhold Stanchions

The absence of handholds can lead to serious accidents as was the case when a Kiel canal helmsman dropped back onto the pilot boat in january 2019. Unfortunately in many cases, when it comes to the proper use of handholds or stanchions, ships are non-compliant by design.

Solas Ch V Reg 23:

4. Access to the ship’s deck

Means shall be provided to ensure safe, convenient and unobstructed passage for any person embarking on, or disembarking from, the ship between the head of the pilot ladder, or of any accommodation ladder or other appliance, and the ship’s deck. Where such passage is by means of:

.1. a gateway in the rails or bulwark, adequate handholds shall be provided;

.2. a bulwark ladder, two handhold stanchions rigidly secured to the ship’s structure at or near their bases and at higher points shall be fitted. The bulwark ladder shall be securely attached to the ship to prevent overturning.

IMO 1045(27) Pilot Transfer Arrangements:

5 Access to deck 

Means should be provided to ensure safe, convenient and unobstructed passage for any person embarking on, or disembarking from, the ship between the head of the pilot ladder, or of any accommodation ladder, and the ship’s deck; such access should be gained directly by a platform securely guarded by handrails. Where such passage is by means of: 

  1. a gateway in the rails or bulwark, adequate handholds should be provided at the point of embarking on or disembarking from the ship on each side which should be not less than 0.7 m or more than 0.8 m apart. Each handhold should be rigidly secured to the ship’s structure at or near its base and also at a higher point, should be not less than 32 mm in diameter and should extend not less than 1.2 m above the deck to which it is fitted; and 
  2. a bulwark ladder, two separate handhold stanchions should be fitted at the point of embarking on or disembarking from the ship on each side which should be not less than 0.7 m or more than 0.8 m apart. The bulwark ladder should be securely attached to the ship to prevent overturning. Each stanchion should be rigidly secured to the ship’s structure at or near its base and also at a higher point, should be not less than 32 mm in diameter and should extend not less than 1.2 m above the top of the bulwarks. Stanchions or handrails should not be attached to the bulwark ladder.

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