Access to Deck

Access to Deck (Wheelhouse poster)
Access to Deck (Wheelhouse poster)

Think of your own safety! Every year, seafarers are lost overboard at sea when rigging a pilot ladder. The first precaution to take when rigging a ladder is to ensure it is done by at least two men, who wear lifejackets, safety lines and a radio. Also, during the embarkation or disembarkation of the pilot, wearing a lifejacket is advisable, since the embarkation point is usually located near an opening in the ship’s railing. 

With the present minimum manning levels on ships, there is little time to perform crucial tasks such as rigging the pilot ladder properly. It is the usual last job after departure, or the first job before arrival of the ship into port. However, the critical nature of the operation for which a pilot ladder is used does not allow for any shortcuts. 

Wearing a lifejacket is advisable, since the embarkation point is usually located near an opening in the ship’s railing

The lifebuoy with self-igniting light is mandatory at the location of the pilot embarkation point, and for a good reason. Whenever a pilot goes into the water by accident, this buoy will mark the spot where he fell in. That is where all rescue operations will be aimed at. Ensure it is working and ready for use.

Solas Ch V Reg 23:

2. General

2.2: “The rigging of the pilot transfer arrangements and the embarkation of a pilot shall be supervised by a responsible officer having means of communication with the navigation bridge and who shall also arrange for the escort of the pilot by a safe route to and from the navigation bridge.“

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.

7. Associated Equipment

7.1. The following associated equipment shall be kept at hand ready for immediate use when persons are being transferred:

  1. two man-ropes of not less than 28 mm and not more than 32 mm in diameter properly secured to the ship if required by the pilot; man-ropes shall be fixed at the rope end to the ring plate fixed on deck and shall be ready for use when the pilot disembarks, or upon request from a pilot approaching to board (the manropes shall reach the height of the stanchions or bulwarks at the point of access to the deck before terminating at the ring plate on deck);
  2. a lifebuoy equipped with a self-igniting light;
  3. a heaving line.” 

7.2. When required by paragraph 4 above, stanchions and bulwark ladders shall be provided.

8. Lightning

Adequate lighting shall be provided to illuminate the transfer arrangements overside and the position on deck where a person embarks or disembarks.”

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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