Pilot Ladder & Pilot Boarding Arrangement

1. Introduction

The pilot boarding arrangement refers to the procedures and facilities for a pilot to board a ship entering or leaving a port. Pilots are experienced maritime professionals who provide navigational guidance to ships in challenging or unfamiliar waters. The pilot boarding arrangement ensures a safe and effective pilot transfer between a pilot boat and the ship.

There should be a proper chart onboard that conveys the procedure of pilot boarding like this.  

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2. Pilot Boarding Arrangement Requirements

2.1 Bridge Procedure Guide

Ensure compliance with the requirements of the Bridge Procedure Guide use this only for pilot boarding only. Use this for embarkation/disembarkation of the pilot. It acts as a reference manual for the bridge personnel, ensuring safe and consistent navigation.

Bridge procedure guide 

2.2 Combination Ladder

The pilot ladder should extend at least 2 meters above the bottom platform. A combination ladder is mainly used when the freeboard is more than 9 meters. A combination ladder is a combination of the pilot ladder and the accommodation ladder. Ensure that the ladder is always clean and dry and you should never apply any type of paint on the ladder.

Combination Ladder

2.3 Safety Equipment

  • Safety lines and harnesses should always be there.
  • Lifebuoys with self-ignition light should be present
  • There should be a separate heaving line.
Lifebuoy with self-igniting light

2.4 Proper Illumination 

At night the pilot ladder and ship’s deck should be illuminated by the forward shining overside light. During the rigging of the pilot ladder, proper illumination is crucial for safety and efficiency.

Overside light

3. Parts of Pilot Ladder

Parts of the Pilot ladder 

3.1 Steps of the pilot ladder

The pilot should be of hardwood or equivalent material of the same strength and should be free from any type of knots.

  • The four lowest steps of the pilot ladder should be rubber steps.
  • Steps should not be less than 400mm between side ropes, 115mm wide, and 25mm in depth.
  • The space between the two steps should not be less than 300mm or more than 380mm.
  • Steps should be secured in such a manner that each shall remain horizontal.

3.2 Replacement steps 

 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.

3.3 Spreader Steps

A pilot ladder with more than 5 steps should have spreader steps not less than 1.8m long provided at each such interval as it will prevent the pilot ladder from twisting.

3.4 Side Ropes

The pilot ladder should consist of two uncovered ropes not less than 18mm in diameter on each side and should be continuous, with no join below the top step. It should be made of manila or other material of equivalent strength, durability, and grip.

3.5 Man Ropes

Man ropes are there to give extra support to the pilot while climbing. Man rope should not be less than 28mm in diameter.

4. Precaution while rigging the Pilot Ladder

Pilot Ladder precautions
  • The pilot ladder should be rigged in such a manner that all steps remain horizontal and the lower end of the ladder will be at a height that will allow easy access to and from the pilot boat.
  • A lifebuoy attached with self-igniting light shall be kept at the point of access to the ship.
  • At night, the pilot ladder, over-side areas, and the ship’s deck near the embarkation point should be lit by a forward-facing light.
  • The pilot ladder should be rigged so that it is free from any discharge.
  • The pilot ladder should be rigged within the mid-ship half-section of the ship.
  • The person climbing shall be able to board the vessel after climbing no more than 9 meters.
  • When a combination ladder is used the pilot ladder should extend at least 2 meters above the bottom platform of the accommodation ladder.
  • An adequate handhold shall be provided at the ship access on the top of a ladder.
  • At the access to the ship, a ladder should be securely provided with a bulwark or landing platform. 

5. Conclusion 

Rigging a pilot ladder is a very important job that needs to be done carefully and safely. Having good lighting while doing this job is super important because it helps everyone see what they’re doing and prevents accidents. Whether it’s natural light or lights you bring with you, it’s essential for making sure everything goes smoothly. 

6. Frequently Asked Question

Q1. What is a pilot ladder used for?

Ans. The purpose of a pilot ladder is to embark and disembark pilots.

Q2. How long is a pilot ladder?

Ans. The pilot ladder is around 9 to 10 meters long.

Q3. Is the pilot ladder safety equipment?

Ans. The pilot ladder and the embarkation ladder are both mandatory marine safety equipment on vessels

Q4. What are the safety measures for pilot ladders?

Ans. The pilot ladder is clean, well-maintained, and free from unacceptable wear and tear.

Q5. Do pilot ladders expire?

Ans. If a pilot ladder has been in service for more than 30 months, it should be re-certified.

Q6. What is the maximum height allowed to be climbed by the pilot ladder?

Ans. The platform or ladder combination must ensure that the pilot does not have to climb more than 9 meters. If the freeboard is more than 9 meters than a combination letter is to be used.


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