Pilot boats, pilot embarking and disembarking ships

Pilot leaving a fairly large ship at Humber Pilot Station, UK:

Obviously not for old, fat, out of shape, or heavy smokers.
They certainly gets enough exercise though.

Pretty archaic when you think about it.
I mean, they can remote pilot a rover on Mars for Pete’s sake, surely they can come up with something safer than that.

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Was always concerned when my son was a ships agent boarding in even good weather. One of his main concerns was how well the boarding apparatus was secured. Some Nationalities were rather lax. Won’t name them for obvious reasons.

I’ve always wondered why pilots don’t mandate and adapt the use of fall prevention devices in conjunction with the traditional jacobs ladder. Most ships have a system set up for the crew to rig the ladder if they need to go over the side, so why not lower the clip down to the pilot boat where the pilot can clip on with a harness they are wearing and climb the ladder. If something happens, they have a fall prevention back up in use. The same thing could be done going down, though that last jump to the boat might require them to un clip.

It just seems like a good idea safety wise.

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Sounds like a good idea. Only as good as the guys topside know what to do if a problem arises. But that sounds like something that could better protect the boarding/unboarding the sides of ships. They aren’t getting smaller, and the weather doesn’t care.

I hear that using helicopters to drop off pilots is pretty popular these days.


There’s a time and place for helicopter transfers but they are not a universal solution for many reasons. I like DamnYankee’s proposal but why couldn’t a pilot clip on before jumping off the pilot boat and clip off after returning to it. All it would take is someone monitoring his progress and snubbing a line with a carabiner at the end from the deck of the ship. Why has this simple solution not been put into effect after so many pilots have disappeared between the hull and the pilot boat?

I question that myself. Training for that should not be that difficult. Son got a call at 3 am as an agent from a Chinese captain that a man was missing from securing the gangway/boarding platform he (My son) had just visited and used their apparatus to board earlier in the day. No flotation device, nor did they ever find that unfortunate sailor. We can do better folks to protect our mariners. Climbed many Jacob ladders, was not my favorite task.

Used a helicopter on a trial off a port notorious for the difficulty in boarding pilots due to weather and sea state.The pilot was winched down to the bridge wing. It was cancelled due to cost despite being very popular with the ships and the pilots. Helicopters are used extensively at Port Headland in Australia with the ULOC’s. The ships have a designated landing area normally on number 4 hatch.

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Cost is probably the main factor not using helicopters.

Pilot in Durban. I can’t remember if this was coming or going. We got the same pilot in and out and via helicopter both times. Pilot Durban on Helicopter

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Joan Armatrading did a song called Drop the Pilot.
Made no sense at all.

He is looking down, so most likely arriving. If the was leaving he would be looking up to check the distance to the chopper.


What if he’s on the way up but just dropped his wallet and he’s like “Aw Jayzuz.”


Zona Comun Pilot Boat on Río de la Plata



Looks fast and reliable :roll_eyes:


Would trust Houston Pilots cat rig way before that thing. If they still have it.

That pilot station is way up the Plate River, Zona Comun is where the Plate river pilot got off and the Parana River pilot got on inbound. So sea/swell not a concern.

We were bound for Port of Zarate, Argentina on the Parana River.

When I first saw that boat I thought it was tied to some kind of mid-river mooring pier.

I hear that this boat is no longer in service and the new one does 21 kts.

Going into Poole one dark night; Pilot stepped off, on to the aft deck of the HSC, and the Pilot boat promptly caught fire and the engines stopped.
Took the Pilot up to the Bridge, picked up a rocket line kit and went back down.
Fired it at the boat, tracking nice and true and a great big knot came out of the canister and pulled it up well short.
Hey ho, left to the ILB after that.