Safer pilot transfers still needed according to The BMA

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Despite the success of the Concentrated Inspection Campaign (CIC) for pilot transfer arrangements instigated by The Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA) in 2021, the recent tragic death of a marine pilot in the Humber Estuary highlights that there is still more to be done.

Capt. Kapila Malawwethanthri MNI (pictured), Technical and Compliance Officer at The BMA, said: “These accidents simply shouldn’t be happening today. We implemented this CIC having noticed a consistent level of non-compliant pilot boarding arrangements across the industry and related deaths, as demonstrated in the International Maritime Pilots’ Association (IMPA) Safety Campaign. We introduced a range of steps to improve safety, including the expansion of our Safety Alert 2021-01, to highlight common defects and why they are non-compliant.”

One of the major drawbacks identified through the CIC was the lack of ladder testing standards in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). While the organisation makes recommendations on how to maintain pilot ladders, there are no explanations regarding how and when to test them beyond that they ‘shall be regularly inspected to ensure they are safe to use’. In fact, the most important reference relating to the construction of pilot ladders is given in a footnote.

To address the lack of direct advice, The BMA has issued an information notice, IN018, regarding pilot boarding arrangements which specifies how testing procedures should be managed. This can be found on The BMA website.

Capt. Malawwethanthri concludes: “Many masters, ship managers and some of the recognised organisations have only limited knowledge about the ladder testing requirement or access to the ISO standard. Ideally, we would like to see all management companies replacing pilot ladders after 30 months of use but, at the very least, it is vital that all concerned parties take note of the standard, know how to test for adherence, and most importantly, that steps are put in place to ensure the testing takes place and proof of compliance provided.

“We hope that the information in our IN018 will help to improve safety for pilots during the transfer process.”

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