When a maritime pilot boards an incoming ship, the ships voyage enters the final phase, coming into port. Using high speed tenders, or even swath-type vessels, we can now board ships at a speed of 5 to 10 knots safely. This enables the ships involved to maintain a good steering while making lee for taking a pilot.
On board of the pilot boats, every precaution has been taken to ensure a maximum level of safety during the critical process of pilot transfer. Independent power resources as well as man overboard rescue capabilities are fitted on every high speed tender and pilot boat. Pilot boats are designed to have dozens of controlled collisions per day during harsh conditions far away from shore. Special attention has therefore been given to fendering arrangements to prevent damage to pilot boats and ships.
The boarding process usually takes place at a certain distance from shore, under the direction of the pilot boat, tender or shore based pilot operator. It is obvious that being so far from shore, it requires all parties involved to be extra vigilant for the dangers of pilot transfers at sea. Communication is the most important factor. The master of the ship taking a pilot is in charge of maneuvering his vessel while taking the pilot boat alongside. He is in direct contact with the pilot boat, shore based pilot and also with his own boarding party on deck. He is the pivot point of the operation.
There is no such thing as a “one size fits all” solution for a safe pilot ladder. Even though there is some guidance on the way pilot ladders should be manufactured and rigged, rigging a suitable and safe pilot ladder is an art. The fact that every ship type has a different pilot boarding spot and -layout, makes it a challenge to fit the standard pilot ladder properly and safely. One can sometimes wonder how much attention has been paid to pilot ladder arrangements by naval architects while designing a ship.
It goes without saying that the level of training of the pilot boat crew as well as the ship’s personnel involved is the key factor for a successful pilot transfer operation. During these critical moments everybody involved must be focused on achieving the safest possible conditions. When every precaution has been taken to ensure these conditions are met, it then comes down to the skills and professionalism of the men and women involved to make the pilot transfer successful, a true team-effort.
So thank you gentlemen, for making that possible, time after time.