Technical Circular No: 010/2021

Subject: Pilot Transfer Arrangements.

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1. The IMO Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS Chapter V, Regulation 23) sets out the principal requirements for the rigging of pilot ladders.  There is further detailed technical specification for pilot ladder in IMO Resolution A.1045 (27).

2. Though above Regulation (SOLAS Regulation V/23) is applicable since 1 July 2012, deficiencies with regard to boarding arrangements and unsafe rigging of pilot ladders continue to be detected during port state control inspections, resulting in delays and financial penalties for the ship operator.

3. The International Maritime Pilots’ Association (IMPA), has also voiced their concern stating that many vessel operators do not comply with safety regulations for pilot ladders. A result of survey undertaken by IMPA shows that:

   a. 12.1% of the vessels inspected did not comply with the SOLAS regulations for pilot ladders.

b. The worst- performing regions were Europe, North America and the Middle East, where non-compliance levels exceeded 18%.

c. More than 21% of passenger- ships, 19% of reefers and 15% of chemical tankers failed to meet the regulatory requirements.

4. It was also found that vessels generally fail to comply with the rules when their ladders are old and overused, or when seafarers fail to install them correctly.

5. In view of above, ship Owners / managers and Masters are advised to ensure that pilot ladders onboard are complying with the requirements of SOLAS Chapter V, Regulation 23 and IMO Resolution A.1045 (27). Following are to be noted for compliance;

a) A pilot ladder placed on a vessel with keel laid after 1 July 2012 or equipment in its entirety or for individual components of the system delivered after 1 July 2012, is certified by the manufacturer as complying with the requirements of SOLAS Chapter V, Regulation 23 and IMO Resolution A.1045 (27) as amended.

b) A record is maintained on board providing the date the pilot ladder is placed into service and any repairs carried out.

c) The pilot ladder is regularly inspected and record of inspections is maintained to ensure that the pilot ladder is safe to use.

d) Shipside doors used for pilot transfer must open inwards in accordance with SOLAS Regulation V/23, paragraph 5.

e) The use of mechanical pilot hoists is prohibited on all ships in accordance with the requirements of SOLAS Regulation V/23, paragraph 6.

f) The side ropes of the pilot ladder should be made of manila or other material of equivalent strength, durability, elongation characteristics and grip and should consist of two uncovered ropes not less than 18 mm in diameter on each side and should be continuous, with no joints and have a breaking strength of at least 24 KN per side rope.

g) Permanent marking is provided at regular intervals (e.g. 1m) throughout the length of the ladder in order to facilitate the rigging of the ladder to the required height.

h) The retrieval line should be fastened at or above the last spreader step and should lead forward.

i) The steps of the ladders should be made of hardwood, in one piece and non-slippery.

j) The steps should not be less than 115 mm wide, 25 mm in depth and should be not less than 400 mm between the side ropes.

k) The steps should be equally spaced not less than 310 mm or more than 350 mm apart and they should be secured in such a manner that each will remain horizontal.

l) No pilot ladder should have more than two replacement steps which are secured in position by a method different from that used in the original construction of the ladder.

m) Safe, convenient and unobstructed passage is provided 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. Where such passage is by means of:

i. A gateway in the rails or bulwark, adequate handholds shall be provided;

ii. 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.

n) The securing strong points, shackles and securing ropes are in good shape.

o) Where Accommodation ladders is used in conjunction with pilot ladders (ships with freeboard of more than 9 metres).

i. The length of the accommodation ladder should be sufficient to ensure that its angle of slope does not exceed 45 deg and the accommodation ladder should be at least 600 mm in width.

ii. The lower platform of the accommodation ladder should be in a horizontal position and secured to the ship’s side when in use. The lower platform should be a minimum of 5 m above sea level.

iii. The pilot ladder should be rigged immediately adjacent to the lower platform of the accommodation ladder and the upper end should extend at least 2 m above the lower platform. The horizontal distance between the pilot ladder and the lower platform should be between 0.1 and 0.2 m.

p) Embarkation/disembarkation area is illuminated for transfer arrangement over side and on the deck.

q) The rigging of the pilot transfer arrangements and embarkation of a pilot is supervised by a responsible officer and associated safety equipment such as life jackets, harness, life lines and life buoys is in place to assure the safety of personnel.

6. Attached checklist may be used by the Vessel’s Master / managers to verify that pilot ladders onboard are complying with the requirements of SOLAS Chapter V, Regulation 23 and IMO Resolution A.1045 (27). The checklist may form part of the ships SMS and be used as an inspection checklist by responsible ship’s officer and records be kept for future reference.

7. Ship owners / managers and Masters are advised to be guided by above and ensure compliance.



This Technical Circular and the material contained in it is provided only for the purpose of supplying current information to the reader and not as an advice to be relied upon by any person. While we have taken utmost care to be as factual as possible, readers/ users are advised to verify the exact text and content of the Regulation from the original source/ issuing Authority. 

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