Portuguese Junior Pilot Joao shares his falling from pilot ladder accident during training period.
It was evening time, somewhere between 2100 and 2230. I was in training as a pilot that had completed some manoeuvres that day (I can't remember precisely how many). I was under the guidance of a Port of Sines Pilot. At the time of the accident, the weather experienced was the usual predominant NW gusts in Sines, with a 2metre swell.
The M/T KORSARO was our next job, inbound.
We were approaching the side of the KORSARO, and the Captain decided to take all the vessel's way off, which meant it would be difficult for the pilot boat to stay alongside. Although my colleague contacted the vessel to increase her speed, it had little effect.
Since the weather wasn't that bad, and the ladder appeared to be rigged correctly, we decided to board anyway. My colleague went first and took what seemed (to me) an unusual amount of time to get a footing on the ladder. I should have better judged my time to step onto the ladder in hindsight. Considering my inexperience, fatigue, the weather, and the vessel not making enough way.
When I first grabbed the side ropes of the ladder, I felt the pilot boat disappearing from under me. Being unprepared to support my whole weight with one arm, I fell abruptly those 2 to 3 meters into the water. As I was falling, I remember doing my best to push the hull of the KORSARO away, trying to distance myself from her.
Thankfully, the pilot boat had moved away due to the swell. The experienced pilot boat's skipper pulled out from under the ladder when he realised I would fall. He ensured I would not hit the pilot boat deck on the way down.
As soon as I entered the water, the life jacket inflated. It kept me afloat throughout the rescue. As I surfaced, I looked to the right to make sure I was far enough from the vessel's hull. I then looked the other way and found the pilot boat at a safe distance. I could hear the crew asking the Pilot boat skipper to get the boat closer to me. I felt relatively safe at that moment as I didn't injure myself.
I was far enough from the ship and pilot boat to avoid immediate injury, so I just stretched my arms and shouted, "I'm fine! I'm fine! Don't run into me!". The pilot boat started to approach safely.
After the accident, I was told that KORSARO sent her MOB buoy as soon as possible, although I didn't notice it. My sole focus was on the pilot boat, its crew and how to board it without being injured. A crewmember extended the boat hook from the port bow, which I held onto as I placed my feet against the boat's hull. I then made my way slowly to the stern of the boat, where a rescue platform was installed. Sure enough, the platform was already lowered and ready for my rescue.
I boarded the pilot boat via the platform and informed the vessel and port control about my condition. I was taken ashore, having been rescued from the sea.
I believe it to be fundamental that as soon as a Pilot is on the ladder, the pilot boat moves from under it. In my situation, I would have seriously injured myself if it didn't.
Since the inbound vessel was making little to no way when I fell, it provided some shelter. The whole rescue happened on the lee side, without being close to KORSARO's stern propeller. What made it worse for boarding was actually helpful during the recovery.
Thank you so much for reading my story.
Feel free to share as you see fit, and I would be delighted to answer any questions you may have.