Distinguished Turkish Pilot Dies in Boarding Accident

Pilot fell to his death while boarding a bulker at the southern entrance to the Bosphorus (file photo)

Published Feb 5, 2024 1:24 PM by The Maritime Executive

The shipping community in Turkey is mourning the death of a distinguished member of its pilot’s association who was killed in a boarding accident yesterday, February 4. It again highlights the dangers that pilots face when boarding vessels.

The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure reports that a pilot, Oguz Kok, fell to his death early on Sunday, February 4 in the area south of the Bosphorus. He was an experienced pilot having graduated the naval school as a deck cadet in 1983.

According to the accounts, he was attempting to board a bulker, the New Siham, that was arriving from Algeria at approximately 0430. The vessel appeared to have been heading for Istanbul. It has been managed since 2016 by Tolunay Shipping Management of Istanbul. The 31,000 dwt vessel is classed by ClassNK and has only minor issues in its recent inspections.

Kok reportedly fell from the pilot’s ladder into the water.  Another crewmember aboard the pilot boat jumped into the water and was able to retrieve him. The pilot was unconscious and was taken first to the pier and then transferred to the local hospital where he died. They are also investigating hypothermia due to the cold temperate of the sea.

The Deputy Minister of Transport led a memorial service today in Istanbul where they highlighted his career and experience. The Board Chairman of the Turkish Pilots Association, Captain Muhammer Arslanturk recounted how the fallen pilot had been a hero saying Istanbul from a prior disaster. He said the pilot was on a tanker when its engine malfunctioned. Kok was reported to have been able to stop the vessel from hitting Istanbul by dropping the bow anchors in time. They said that if Kok had delayed his actions even a few minutes it would have resulted in a catastrophic collision that could have damaged the city. 

The climb from a moving pilot boat up the side of a moving ship involves risk, and pilot ladder accidents are not uncommon. Speaking at today’s service, the Turkish Pilot Association board chairman said it was the third memorial service he had attended in his career saying he wished these accidents would not happen again. 

Safety societies and inspectors frequently issue alerts and continue to work to improve the safety of the transfers. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority just a month ago issued a warning about substandard ladders and faked safety certificates reporting that Chinese authorities had taken legal action against a manufacturer. They warned that ships and pilots should be carefully observing the ladders.