A SHIP’S master and shipping company have been convicted over a serious pilot ladder incident in Australian territory waters in 2023.

On 25 May 2023, a mooring master providing pilot services on the Panama-flagged general cargo ship Boshi 58 was seriously injured when the pilot ladder broke during the transfer. 

“The mooring master fell into the water while providing services during the pilotage phase of the voyage, while ascending the pilot ladder, which parted,” an AMSA spokesperson said,

During court proceedings, it was established that the pilot ladder had not been checked regularly and had been improperly stored, leading to degradation to the extent that it became unsafe. 

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP), on behalf of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, prosecuted the master of Boshi 58 and the shipping company Fu Ye Shipping.

The master and company both pled guilty and were fined $5300 and $32,000, respectively, for failing to ensure pilot transfer arrangements complied with the relevant Marine Order and the Navigation Act 2012. 

AMSA said this is the second successful prosecution for the CDPP and safety authority on a pilot ladder failure which resulted in injury.

In June 2023, AAL Dampier Navigation was fined $30,500 for a similar offence. 

AMSA executive director operations Michael Drake said these were preventable accidents that placed the lives of seafarers at significant and unacceptable risk.

“Pilots rely on a ship’s master and crew to properly maintain, stow and rig pilot ladders, and neglecting a pilot ladder can have deadly consequences,” he said.

Mr Drake also highlighted common issues with pilot ladders including instances where they have fallen short of accommodation ladders when used in combination, unsafe use of shackles and failure to regularly inspect, maintain and store pilot ladders appropriately. 

​“If you own, operate or are the master of a ship, the safety of everyone using the pilot ladder is in your responsibility,” he said.