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Pilot Killed in Boarding Accident on the Humber

Pilot launch on the Humber
File image courtesy ABP

Published Jan 12, 2023 7:14 PM by The Maritime Executive

A marine pilot on the Humber Estuary was killed Sunday while boarding a merchant vessel, according to the UK Marine Pilots' Association. 

Francisco Galia, a longtime pilot for Associated British Ports, was boarding an inbound vessel off Spurn Point when he fell from the pilot ladder, one of his colleagues told the BBC. 

Galia went into the water, and a second pilot jumped in to save him. He was recovered quickly and brought aboard the pilot launch, then transfered for a medevac. Though Galia was brought to a hospital, he did not survive.

"ABP is saddened to confirm that one of our marine pilots was fatally injured during operations on the water," the company said in a statement. "The gentleman's next of kin have been informed. Our thoughts are very much with those closest to him."

The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has launched an inquiry into the circumstances of Galia's death. 

"A team of MAIB inspectors and technical staff were deployed to the accident site on Sunday and are in the process of gathering evidence to understand the circumstances that led to this tragic accident. The purpose of MAIB's investigation is to improve safety and where lessons can be learnt, recommendations will be made to prevent reoccurrence," the agency said in a statement.

According to the UK Marine Pilots' Association, Galia had worked as a pilot for two decades and was known for his passion for the maritime industry. His death was made all the more tragic by the fact that he was due to retire soon. 

"This tragedy highlights the risks and challenges faced by maritime pilots every day they go to work . . . transferring from one vessel to another by nothing more than a rope ladder. This is always a risky procedure," said UKMPA in a statement. "We urge the maritime industry and regulatory authorities, once again, to prioritize safety and training with regard to the transfer of pilots and crew, and to invest in safe and reliable technologies and procedures."

Given the inherent risks of boarding and the large number of potential points of failure, pilot ladder accidents are all too common. In an attempt to address pilot transfer safety issues, SOLAS V Regulation 23 provides specific measures for pilot ladder arrangements and equipment, but many marine pilots report that these rules are not always followed.