Already a few years ago, the fishery-inspection vessel of a European country wanted to conduct an inspection at sea of a fishing vessel. The fishing vessel was ordered to prepare a pilot ladder to allow the inspector to board the vessel.
When the inspector attempted to board the fishing vessel, both side ropes snapped simultaneously, and the inspector could barely prevent himself from falling into the water. Should he have fallen onto the launch backwards, he might have suffered long lasting physical damage.
The launch returned to the mothership and a short while after, another inspector boarded the fishing vessel and ordered it to proceed back to port. In port the inspection was conducted, and the respective pilot ladder was seized for investigation. On board of the inspecting-vessel the ladder was subjected to a first visual inspection. During the visual inspection the crew of the inspecting-vessel drew the conclusion that the side ropes looked like they were (partly) cut. Therefore, the decision was made to send the ladder to a laboratory for thorough inspection and examination.
The photos show the respective pilot ladder as well as close-up pictures taken from thesideropes. The snapped side ropes have also been microscopical examined.
Basically, there were two possibilities in this case:
1. Side ropes snapped simultaneously due to wear and tear
2. Side ropes were partly cut
Since a major portion of both side ropes had very sharp ends on the loose parts, the laboratory came with the hypothesis that the ropes had been partly cut and when weight was put on them, the rest of the ropes spontaneously snapped. A part of the side ropes looked snapped, and a part looked cut. Further examination showed that the remainder of the side ropes were very strong, despite the fact this was not an official and certified pilot ladder, and therefore damage due to wear and tear was highly unlikely: a conclusion was that should there have been no manipulation of the side ropes, they
would not have snapped on that particular day.
The captain of the fishing vessel had to answer to court following these conclusions. The defendant claimed that the ladder had been damaged due to a collision between the launch used for inspection and the pilot ladder. The court however did not agree on this statement, and followed the conclusions of the examining laboratory. The court sentenced the captain to a sentence of 30 months imprisonment in total. In the verdict the judge stated: it has been proven without reasonable doubt, that the defendant had manipulated the side ropes to hamper or prevent inspection. The defendant had, according to the court, a plausible interest by hampering or preventing inspection.
The inspector who suffered this accident, has not inspected any ships since the incident due to the mental trauma he suffered, and he has been assigned to other duties within the ministry. Again, we see that accidents on ladders can be very traumatically and can lead to long lasting physical and mental consequences.
Source : Arie Palmers- Maritime Pilot / Maasmond Maritime