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Boston Harbor Pilot Dies in Tragic Fall

MarEx sources on the Boston, MA waterfront have advised THE MARITIME EXECUTIVE that a Boston harbor pilot has lost his life in a tragic accident which occurred on October 24th. According to accounts of the incident, Boston pilot Robert Cordes was attempting to board the M/V “BALDOCK” via rope ladder when he fell to his death on a steel barge which was breasting alongside the vessel. Although few details of the accident have yet been disclosed, it was reported that the vessel’s gangway was not deployed at the time, so the pilot attempted to board using the rope ladder. The vessel was moored at the Eastern Minerals Terminal at Chelsea, MA at the time of the incident and was empty, having just finished discharging a cargo of salt. Cordes was to have guided the vessel on its outbound leg to the sea buoy.

Cordes was a 40 year veteran of the Boston Pilots Association, with the group since 1966 and commissioned as a full pilot in 1976. The incident reportedly occurred in full daylight, under ideal weather conditions. Although the vessel was said to be almost empty, the extent of freeboard presented by the vessel is not yet known. Coast Guard investigations into the incident are underway, but calls to the Boston US Coast Guard public affairs office were not returned in time for this edition of the e-newsletter.

The tragic accident is at least the third such event to occur in the United States this year. In January, another veteran harbor pilot died in Hawaii after falling from a ladder after piloting a cruise ship out of the harbor. After falling in the water, he was hit by the pilot boat. Also in January of this year, a Columbia River bar pilot lost his life on the job when he tried to disembark from a log carrier that he had finished guiding during a storm. As he attempted to make the leap to a smaller shuttle boat that would return him to land, he went overboard and drowned. His body was finally recovered almost two days later.

The most recent incident in Boston differed from the two earlier tragedies in that it occurred alongside a berth in the harbor. All three incidents underscore the dangerous nature of the job of harbor pilot and that of the marine industry in general.