Pilot killed in River Humber

I have watched this one a few times.

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Pilot ladders are man riding pieces of equipment, there should be mandatory annual checks on a pilot ladder by a professional shore based company.

With the number of incidents involving pilot ladders it’s evident that ship’s crew can’t be trusted to check them properly, shore based professionals should have to recertify them annually.


It should be telling that (almost) no pilot that I know of, including the other pilots on this forum advocate for any sort of harness/fall arrest system.

The transition from boat to ladder or vice versa needs to be done without encumbering devices - you’re either on the boat or on the ladder/ship. The in-between/hesitation is when many issues happen. That’s without even bringing up man ropes where a little bit of belaying is of benefit. Fall arrest equipment just complicates that.

Many ships have problems simply maintaining boarding arrangements that comply with current SOLAS standards. Expecting them to maintain fall arrest equipment to trustworthy standards is almost laughable at this point.

This is very much a you need to walk-the-walk before you can talk-the-talk situation. Those of us who do these transfers day in and and day out in all types of weather know what we’re all comfortable with. Most mariners will never go up or down their pilot ladder/accom arrangements underway in less than perfect weather.

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It’s sad but yes, these fall arrest ideas are simply pipe dreams, based on the current state of the industry.

Two items have always bothered me at work……safe pilot boarding and bridge window wipers.

Okay, two of the many items that have always bothered me at work……. We just can’t seem to get them right across the fleet.

Thank goodness I’ve never seen one of these go bad.

How many pilots have spent time in other industries viewing the systems and equipment created to reduce injuries and deaths for falls? Probably very few.

Do you know all the systems that exist? Have you spoken to every inventor in the world that maybe could come up with a better “mousetrap”?

To say only those that have “walked-the-walk” can come up with a solution is silly. Your response to me proves my point. You accept the status quo and feel there is no better method to improve safety. You know best, because you do it everyday…nobody else could ever improve your system.

And it is that same mentality that stifles innovation keeps people stuck in the status quo. There almost always is a way to improve.

What if the pilot boat had big suction cups and attached on the the side of the ship? What if there was a high tech system with a crane that had a sensor on boat and ship that automatically adjusted the cable instantly for the swells?

I’m sure 20-30 years ago pilots scoffed at the idea of using GPS and portable pilot units.

Many pilots climb the ladder and don’t even wear helmets. Do a statistical analysis of pilot deaths from injuries and I bet head trauma is near the top or at the top of the list. Wearing a helmet might mitigate 25-50% of these fatal injuries. People used to think seat belts in cars were stupid…then airbags…


I’ve seen pilots landed on the bridge wing via helicopter. Not sure if it’s still an acceptable method or not, but I’ve seen it done.

You’re obviously not a pilot so are not aware of what happens at the district, APA and IMPA levels of pilot boarding safety (which is a major topic right now). The loss of the two Sandy Hook pilots in quick succession was a major call for action.

There’s currently work being done by a certain east coast pilot group on innovating the safety of boarding and yes, this does include the potential use of a fall arrest device.

But the concern about being tethered to one vessel while attempting to step to the other is still valid as is the poor state of maintenance of existing boarding arrangements. Adding another device to that which will just rot on the questionable ships is not really enhancing safety.

You need to walk-the-walk because, again, the vast majority of non-pilot mariners will never do the kind of vessel-to-vessel transfer that pilots do routinely, sometimes multiple times per day. Nor can I think of any other activity, professional or recreational, that is similar enough. No, boarding your ship at anchor via launch is not the same thing.

You obviously know your own vessel and the extent at which the boarding equipment is maintained and rigged. A pilot doesn’t know that. Heck, in a typical watch, a pilot may see more vessels than you have worked on in your entire career.


Hi NWWaterman,

This delusional and idealistic individual is a Marine Engineer who has an opinion on all matters……erroneous opinions yet opinions none the less. He claims that experience and knowledge counts for nothing in the evolution of safety procedures and goes so far as to say that they are actually blockers. Apparently this profession has failed to evolve over the years and requires fresh, young third party eyes to right all the wrongs.
I have been a part of 5500 bridge teams and witnessed many iterations, attended a number of BRM courses, been active in the evolution of Master/Pilot exchanges yet this “expert” is lecturing us on CRM and BRM because “he knows a few airline Pilots”.
I have traversed in excess of 2000 Pilot ladders in some pretty ordinary weather and know all the pitfalls……so we evolved our SOP’s to mitigate the risks. Yet this expert wants to fit suction cups to the Pilot cutter to attach to the ship (interesting in 5 metre swells) and use a crane. I pissed myself laughing at those suggestions………clueless……or taking the piss……or perhaps both.
His generalised commentary on GPS and PPU was also humourous. 24 years ago, we pushed management for the introduction and networking of AIS in addition to the trialling of PPU. We ended up using Navicom Dynamics with our own RTK base station plus an Australian company installed the AIS system.
I assume that you are also a Marine Pilot and have had similar experiences and introduced many innovations as have the majority of services globally.
This particular individual could not distinguish between shit and clay and this is the best he can come up with………

…….the stuff of sheer genius and progressive, forward thinking.

Good to hear discussions and brain storm sessions are going on to improve safety. Not every idea will be feasible, but to start improvement, new techniques must be evaluated.

As to how many vessels an inventor (or me, or anybody else) has climbed vs a pilot, this is irrelevant. Obviously thousands of pilots around the world doing thousands of boardings every day have not come up with a better system. So maybe it’s time to talk to those that haven’t climbed the later thousands of times–because outsiders bring new perspective and ideas.

You’ve got 5500 team parties and 2000 climbings of doing the exact same thing over, and over, and over. You truly are an expert! Thank goodness everybody doesn’t think like you because you’d probably be boarding ships that use sails and oars from your own rowboat and our doctor would bleed us to purge away any illness. It is very interesting to hear that you and you alone hold the key to improvement for shipping and mankind as a whole.

Your experience can and often is a blinder to progress…but you don’t have to take my word for it. This video quotes various studies and statistics on how diverse experience most often outperforms that of subject matter expurts–hyper-specialization isn’t always the winner. Pay special attention to 8:30 and 9:30…“Lateral thinking with withered technology”…stop being a boomer frog and fly with the birds!

As for pissing yourself over suction cups…maybe take a trip down the road?

Not sure I’d want to land on the typical bridge wing on today’s ships, given that the wings get narrower in the terms of “saving space” and “cargo efficiency” and all that BS.

Yea, except it’s just a line sent up to be wrapped around the handrail or some other “strong enough” point, and then he puts on a harness and uses a fall arrest device. It’s not exactly groundbreaking, and while it works for him, he also hasn’t fallen to really test out which piece of rusty metal it gets attached to.

Oh dear………your are a sycophant to Google are you not.

So please tell me, without referring to google, what risks are we mitigating regarding defective ladder rigging, damaged or rotten cordage, an untethered combination ladder which is moving with vessel roll or a fatigued Pilot who loses his/her grip……by suctioning a Pilot cutter on to the side of a vessel in a 5 metre swell? And you want to keep the cutter alongside so the falling Pilot can fold themselves over the forward rail do you? Clever.

Your analogy of the vacuum mooring system being fitted on a smaller scale to both sides of the 18 metre cutter is humourous to say the least.

How many Pilot ladders have you rigged? How many Pilot ladder transfers have you undertaken?

How many bridge teams have you worked with? Do you understand the destructive nature of power distance? Do you understand how fatigued foreign crews are owing to very long stints at sea with the commensurate drop in performance levels?

Now you allege that over 2000 ladder transfers, I have done it the same way every time with exactly the same sea and ladder conditions. I never saw your knowledgeable head hanging over the rail watching me…… I should pay more attention! God knows I have no regard for my own life and fail to look for improvements.

If nothing else, your ignorance has put a smile on my face. There is that lovely saying…….”sadly, I am not young enough to know it all”. :rofl:

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These photos show the level of corrosion found at a hatch coaming access arrangement servicing an onboard helicopter landing site. The Pilot fell to the deck when both staunchions gave way and the incident was referred to Seaways. Beautifully painted yet heavily corroded.

This led to major changes regarding acceptable access arrangements.

Here is a little quiz for you johnny.dollar and please feel free to use Google. A little hint to help you along…….it has nothing to do with the fact that the aluminium gangway in the combination is not made fast to the vessel……an illegality in itself. Yet, it does have something to do with the gangway section. Now put your engineering eyes on it and find a point of danger. After all, we are here to improve safety. Here is your opportunity.

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I have never had anything to do with piloting large vessels, but I wonder, if one day, it may be possible to safely pilot the vessel remotely, even if is from a nearby cutter or overhead drone relaying intructions to the bridge team ?

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A lot of places were doing remote pilotage during covid.

Even the Suez Canal did it:

Apparently the P&I Club is not too keen:

Do you think the nepia article implies transferring a pilot while underway is not a high-risk operation?