Slipping standards putting marine pilots and dock workers at risk
21 February 2019
UK port operators have called for action following a series of cases involving defective pilot ladders and the regular use of dangerously weighted heaving lines on visiting vessels…
The safety of marine pilots and dock workers is being put at risk by the failure of too many ships to comply with international standards, the British Ports Association has warned.
Chief executive Richard Ballantyne has called for leadership in the global shipping industry and at the International Maritime Organisation to ensure that lives are not put at risk as a result of 'flagrant' safety shortfalls.
'Too often of late, UK ports and their pilots report that visiting ships provide unsafe pilot ladders, and we have also seen the continued use of dangerously weighted heaving lines in ports,' he pointed out. 'Both threaten the lives of harbour and towage operatives.'
Mr Ballantyne said the International Maritime Pilots' Association had recently published the results of its annual safety survey, which confirmed the global scale of the problems with defective pilot boarding arrangements.
'Of course, such examples are despite the existence of longstanding international rules outlined in SOLAS,' he added. 'The exact reasons for these instances are unclear but as a normally responsible sector, the shipping industry should collectively hang its head in shame over this continued flagrant activity. It cannot ignore such problems and must show leadership to correct such practices.'
Global rules set by the IMO bring consistency, but they must be followed. Equally, these rules must be enforced uniformly, and port state control practices should be firm – including, where needed, measures to prosecute and detain ships
Mr Ballantyne said strong leadership is also required from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to uphold these values.
'While it is certainly true that you cannot put a price on a life, what makes these issues even more frustrating are the relatively minor costs associated with purchasing new pilot ladders and ensuring heaving lines don't include scraps of metal hidden within monkey fist knots or have other dangerously weighted objects attached,' he added.
Mr Ballantyne said UK ships have a generally good record in terms of their pilot access and heaving lines. 'However,' he warned, 'international standards are not as consistent, and there are still far too many instances of visiting ships at our ports flouting the rules. Global rules set by the IMO bring consistency, but they must be followed. Equally, these rules must be enforced uniformly, and port state control practices should be firm – including, where needed, measures to prosecute and detain ships.'
He noted that the UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency has refreshed its dangerously weighted heaving line reporting and enforcement mechanisms, and one leading port operator is levying a charge on instances.
'Such approaches can be applauded, but without collective and global action the problems will no doubt continue,' he added. 'We must look to correct this jointly through both enforcement and education. This will ensure the sector's pilots and seafarers enable our ships and ports to continue to keep the global economy trading in an efficient and safe way.'