On 3 July 2013, a company representative was boarding the bulk carrier Atlantic Princess via the ship’s pilot ladder when he fell and landed on the deck of the pilot launch below. At the time, the ship was at anchor off Whyalla, South Australia, loading iron ore from an offshore transhipment barge.
The injured man was provided with immediate first aid and transported to the local hospital. However, he died later that day as a result of his injuries.
What the ATSB found
The ATSB found that while Atlantic Princess’s pilot ladder had been rigged in accordance with the relevant international requirements, no further risk assessment was carried out for the personnel transfer. The investigation also found that the company’s safety management system provided no guidance relating to actions that should be taken when less experienced personnel were to use a pilot ladder to board or disembark the ship.
In addition, there were no facilities on board the transhipment barge that could be used to provide a safe means of access between the barge and the ship for personnel transfers with the barge operator’s procedures prohibiting such transfers.
The investigation also identified safety issues relating to the content and implementation of the pilot launch operator’s safety management system.
What's been done as a result
The ship’s managers have issued a fleet safety circular noting that helicopters should be used for transfers of persons other than pilots wherever possible. When this is not possible, they are required to use a safety harness while climbing a pilot ladder. These requirements are to be advised to the ship’s agent in advance.
The pilot launch operator’s safety management system has been audited and the company is working to improve the system and its implementation. The company’s personnel transfer procedures have also been updated.
This accident highlights the fact that while pilots may be competent in the use of pilot ladders, it should not be assumed that other personnel are proficient in climbing or descending a pilot ladder, or fit to do so.