AAL Dampier Navigation and a master have been convicted over a pilot ladder incident that seriously injured a marine pilot.

The company and the master were prosecuted in the Perth Magistrates Court on 23 May 2023, and were fined $30,500 and $5500 respectively.

The Cyprus-flagged cargo ship AAL Dampier (IMO: 9521540) was departing Port of Fremantle on 24 August last year when the pilot ladder ropes parted while the pilot was disembarking the vessel.

The pilot fell about seven metres onto the deck of the pilot vessel, which was traveling alongside the ship. The pilot was transported to hospital for treatment for serious injuries.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority inspectors and specialist investigators boarded the vessel and seized a portion of the man ropes, which were later found to be “seriously defective” and in “shocking condition”.

AMSA said the ropes’ poor condition was likely due to inappropriate storage and ineffective inspection maintenance procedures.

AAL Dampier Navigation pled guilty to an offence under Marine Order 21 (Safety and Emergency Arrangements) 2016 for failing to ensure pilot transfer arrangements in place were in accordance with the relevant regulations.

The master of the vessel pled guilty to two offences, one under Marine Order 21 (Safety and Emergency Arrangements) 2016 for failing to ensure the disembarkation of a pilot was carried out according to relevant regulations, and one under the Navigation Act 2012 for taking an unseaworthy vessel to sea.

AMSA executive director of operations Michael Drake said he was pleased with the result in court and hoped a conviction would deter other vessels from compromising on marine pilot safety.

“Marine pilots have a critical and high-risk job, even in the best of conditions, and it is imperative that vessels meet safety standards to prevent serious injury,” he said.

“AMSA is a tough-but-fair regulator, and we will not hesitate to take action to prevent danger to human life, whether it be a pilot or mariner.”

AMSA plans to increase its engagement with industry on pilot ladder safety. The regulator recently reported it had detained a ship over a separate incident in which a ladder parted, throwing a person into the water. AMSA is currently investigating the incident.