An unsuitable deck gate and lack of markings were factors in the death of a drunk pilot in the Port of London, according to UK Government investigators. A sea pilot died on 5 October 2016 during a transfer from pilot launch Patrol to the Bahamas registered and Misje Rederi-operated, general cargo vessel Sunmi in the Thames, east of London.
A report by the UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) said the pilot fell from the launch and died when crushed between the two vessels. It said that “the designated pilot boarding station on board Sunmi was not marked and the deck gate should not have been opened in preparation for the transfer as it was unsuitable”.
An investigation into the accident found that the pilot had ingested sufficient alcohol on the day of the accident for his blood to contain 122 mg alcohol per 100 ml of blood, around two hours after reporting for duty. MAIB said “it is likely that the consumption of alcohol contributed to his fall”.
Another finding from the investigation was that a poster from the International Maritime Pilots’ Association highlighting the required boarding arrangements for pilots did not include reference to the amendments to pilot transfer arrangements made in IMO Resolution A.1108(29), regarding deck gates.
From the conclusions of the investigation, MAIB recommended that low freeboard pilot transfers should be included in risk assessments for boarding and landing because of the safety issues.
MAIB also recommended that the International Maritime Pilots’ Association should promulgate the requirements for gateways in vessels’ rails or bulwarks intended for pilot boarding operations. This should be done by updating the ‘Required Boarding Arrangements For Pilot’ poster to include the IMO resolution amendments.
Another recommendation was given to Misje Rederi to ensure that the designated pilot boarding areas on its ship Sunmi are marked and that pilot boarding operations are overseen by a responsible officer.
The Port of London Authority has already reacted to accidents on the Thames involving workboats and pilot vessels in 2016. It launched a safety campaign in May 2017 that it hopes will minimise human error in port operations.