LEGISLATIVE change can be expected to impact transfer procedures for pilots boarding big ships, an industry analyst believes.

Ian Vanderbeek from Aviator Group said suggested legislative intervention in this area was “the elephant in the room”.

“The last two decades has really seen the emergence of pilot transfer by hoist… this is very widely used in Europe and South Africa.

“[Hoist transfer] is slowly becoming more prevalent and we are seeing more and more ports starting to look at it and to adapt it.”

Mr Vanderbeek said there had been increased scrutiny around safety and showed some videos involving risky boarding scenarios using ladders, also talking about some of the benefits of boarding via helicopter.

“By comparison helicopter transfers are somewhat more controlled… Transfer by helicopter always involves three pilots – the helicopter pilot, the marine pilot and the air crew officer,” he said.

“The difference with the helicopter is… all three need to agree on what point it is that the hoist operation point is going to occur.”

Mr Vanderbeek said it was “only going to be a matter of time” before legislation started to catch up in this area.

“If someone comes off the pilot ladder and is injured or dies as a result and the coroner gets involved, there are going to be some pretty hard questions starting to be asked,” he said.

“I think the legislation is going to change in some form, whether it is helicopter transfer or whether it is other methods… there are some real challenges and it is going to be the legislation that trips us up.”


He was questioned by a representative of Australian Marine Pilots who indicated he had not experienced transfers as seen shown on video and also asked who of ports, shipping lines or others would be required to pay for a new transfer regime.

“I don’t think it just applied to helicopters, I think it is anything to do with port services or port infrastructure,” Mr Vanderbeek said.

“Every port makes it decisions based on different… validations and arguments. I think it comes down very much to the ports themselves to [determine].”

Mr Vanderbeek spoke at the Australian Ports Business and Operations Conference in Townsville, an event organised by Ports Australia.