Where is the responsible officer?

6th November 2019

Where is the responsible officer?

Initial Report


This report concerns a large cruise liner operated by one of the major  passenger ship operators departing from port. The reporter in this instance was the disembarking pilot.

What the Reporter told us:

The pilot ladder presented for pilot disembarkation was not rigged in accordance with SOLAS regulations.

A metal bar had been placed between the ladder side ropes which relied solely on the whipping on the chocks to hold the weight of the ladder and the pilot. The side ropes were left on the deck and not secured to anything.  I refused to use the arrangement and provided advice to the crew to correctly rig the ladder. There were strong points provided at the head of the side door where the manropes had been secured. In view that there were no other strong points provided, the pilot suggested that this would be a better securing point for the side ropes of the ladder. At first the crew informed me that they always rig the ladder in the presented manner, that it was safe and there were no issues with it.  After some discussion the crew eventually re-rigged the ladder so that the weight of the ladder was carried through the side ropes in line with SOLAS regulations. The manropes provided were left with a large knot at termination which would prove a snagging issue to the pilot boat should it roll.  There was also a pre-rigged orange line to a lifeboat/tender which impinged over the pilot ladder spreader bar, (photo below from pilot boat shows this).  After disembarkation the pilot reported to the vessel via VHF that they should review their pilot ladder arrangements to ensure compliance with SOLAS regulations.

The crew showed no awareness of the SOLAS requirements for correctly rigging a pilot ladder. There was no officer overseeing the operation, only two AB’s and a security team member who had escorted me from the bridge. This is a common issue on cruise ships where it is very rare for a deck officer to be present for pilot transfer


Completely illegal and highly dangerous method of rigging a pilot ladder.

Further Dialogue:

The reporter confirmed he had also reported the matter to the port and national authorities. CHIRP in turn contacted the company who investigated the incident. This resulted in the DPA issuing a Company Circular Letter to the fleet entitled “Pilot Transfer Arrangements – “Safe Rigging of Pilot Ladders”.

The Circular Letter also included an annex applicable for certain classes of vessels which illustrated modifications required to be carried out at the next available opportunity to allow those vessels to comply with the requirements of the circular letter and, more importantly, SOLAS and IMO requirements.

The necessary elements and fittings required for these modifications would be supplied directly to the vessels concerned without need to raise a requisition.

The company asserted that the member of the security team who escorted the pilot down from the bridge to the pilot embarkation point was a responsible officer – this may be challenged since he did not intervene in the discussion between the pilot and the crew as to the correct rigging of the ladder.

CHIRP Comment:

The Maritime Advisory Board found it worrying that it fell to CHIRP to address this fundamental issue. If some of the company’s vessels required actual modifications to comply with the SOLAS and IMO requirements it begs the question what are the classification societies and flag state authorities doing?

Nevertheless, once the company were made aware of the non-compliance highlighted in the report, their positive engagement and response was encouraging. However, the question should be asked why  none of the ship’s officers and crew had made the company aware of the ships inability to provide a compliant pilot transfer arrangement?  Since the pilot transfer arrangements come under SOLAS  the whole safety culture on board  must be questioned.

With respect to the security personnel escorting the pilot, the regulations require the transfer of a pilot to be overseen by a responsible officer and in this context the definition of a responsible officer is a certificated officer or a person of appropriate training. Overseeing of the pilot transfer by a member of the security team  is good utilisation of available manpower provided they are suitably trained to carry out that role.


Report Ends……….

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