Australia Convicts Master and Line for Pilot’s Injuries in Ladder Fall

pilot fall
Pilot fell and was injured AMSA says due to a poorly maintained ladder (AMSA)

Published Jun 1, 2023 2:49 PM by The Maritime Executive

Australia as part of its focus on maritime safety reports it took the unusual step of prosecuting and securing a conviction related to injuries to a marine pilot. While rare, safety incidents do occur for marine pilots and in this instance, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) determined that the ship and shipping line contributed to the pilot’s injuries.

The Cyprus-flagged cargo ship AAL Dampier (18,700 dwt) was departing the Port of Fremantle, Australia on August 24, 2022. As the 488-foot vessel was underway and the pilot was disembarking, the marine pilot fell more than 20 feet from the ladder onto the deck of the pilot vessel, which was traveling alongside the ship. The pilot suffered serious injuries and was urgently transported by the pilot boat to a hospital for treatment.

Inspectors and specialist investigators from AMSA boarded the cargo ship which is owned by AAL Dampier Navigation Co. and they determined that the ropes on the pilot ladder had parted causing the pilot to fall. They seized a portion of the ropes, which they report were later found to be seriously defective and in poor condition. 

AMSA called the condition of the ladder and its ropes “shocking” saying that it believed the condition was likely due to inappropriate storage. They also cited ineffective inspection maintenance procedures of the ship.

“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,” said AMSA Executive Director of Operations Michael Drake.

The safety authority decided to prosecute the shipping company and the master of the vessel. They secured the successful prosecution in the Perth Magistrates Court on May 23, 2023.

AAL Dampier Navigation Co. pled guilty to an offense related to marine safety for failing to ensure pilot transfer arrangements in place were in accordance with the relevant regulations. The company was fined A$30,500 (US$20,000).

The master of the vessel pled guilty to two offenses, one under safety and emergency rules for failing to ensure the disembarkation of a pilot was carried out in accordance with the relevant regulations, and the second under the Navigation Act 2012 for taking an unseaworthy vessel to sea. He was fined a total of A$5,500 (US$3,600).

“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,” said Drake. He said he was pleased with the result of the prosecution and hoped a conviction would deter other vessels from compromising on marine pilot safety.