Pilot & Navigation Safety
Boarding a ship at sea is one of the highest risk evolutions in the marine industry... and it happens hundreds of times a day in the U.S., often without incident. There was, however, a recent spike in incidents between 2006 and 2007 in which four pilots were killed during pilot transfer which highlights the need for continued vigilance by both pilots and ships crews.
The International Marine Pilots Association conducted a recent survey which examined pilot transfer concerns. The top three safety issues included:
Pilot ladders not firmly resting against the ship's hull;
Dirty or slippery ladder treads; and
Steps not equally spaced.
Other important factors in New England include:
special care to remove ice and snow in the winter months, and
ensuring well lit pilot access areas during exetended periods of darkness in the winter.
Barge side-shell "pigeon holes" do not comply with U.S. or international pilot boarding standards. Tug and barge operators are reminded of the imprtance of providing an appropriate pilot ladder and boarding arrangement for pilots.
Small craft should closely follow the Navigation Rules of the Road and monitor VHF channels 16 and 13, especially when operating in the vicinity of large ships. Small vessel operators should also note that forward visibility from the bridge of a ship is often obscured by the ship's bow (particularly when the ship is empty) which creates a "blind spot" forward of the ship. Wood and fiberglass are often provide poor radar signals which further obscures the ship's forward looking aspect for many small craft. The graphic below provides a generic (not to scale) example of a forward blind-spot experienced on many large ships. Some blind spots can obscure the pilot's forward view as much as 1/4 of a mile. A small boat within the blind spot could be invisible to those aboard the ship.