Pilot boarding- The SOLAS requirements

Navsregs>SOLAS>SOLAS V>Pilot Boarding

​This  exploration of SOLAS V will not attempt to follow any order. Bypassing all the earlier Regulations, I will jump straight into Regulation 23, pilot transfer arrangements.

Southampton Pilot Boat-Navsregs

Regulation 23 – Pilot Transfer Arrangements- A Handy Revision Guide

This post contains some of the key facts from SOLAS covering pilot boarding arrangements, and includes information on how and where a pilot ladder should be rigged.

Which ships must comply with the pilot boarding regulations?

Ships engaged on voyages in the course of which pilots may be employed.

Equipment and arrangements for pilot transfer which are provided on ships before 1 July 2012 shall at least comply with the requirements of regulations in SOLAS 1974, in force prior to that date.

What are the requirements of pilot transfer arrangements?


  • All arrangements used for pilot transfer shall efficiently fulfil their purpose of enabling pilots to embark and disembark safely
  • The appliances shall be kept clean, properly maintained and stowed , and shall be regularly inspected
  • The appliances shall be used solely for the embarkation and disembarkation of personnel.
  • An accommodation ladder shall be used in conjunction with the pilot ladder, or other equally safe and convenient means, whenever the distance from the surface of the water to the point of access to the ship is more than 9 m.

Note: Mechanical pilot hoists shall not be used.

The rigging of pilot transfer arrangements

  • The rigging of the pilot transfer arrangements, and the embarkation of a pilot shall be supervised by a responsible officer having means of communication with the bridge.
  • The responsible officer who shall also arrange for the escort of the pilot by a safe route to and from the  bridge.
  • Personnel engaged in rigging and operating any mechanical equipment shall be instructed in the safe procedures to be adopted, and the equipment shall be tested prior to use.

Certification, marking and record keeping

  •  A pilot ladder shall be certified by the manufacturer as complying with SOLAS, or with an international standard acceptable to the Organization
  • All pilot ladders shall be clearly identified with tags or other permanent marking so as to enable identification of each appliance
  • A record shall be kept on the ship as to the date an identified ladder is placed into service and any repairs conducted

Pilot boat bow

Where should the pilot transfer arrangements be located?

Arrangements should enable the pilot to embark and disembark safely on either side of the ship.

Pilot ladders

Maximum 9 metres- the distance to remember

  • A pilot ladder must require a  climb of not less than 1.5 m and not more than 9 m above the surface of the water
  • It must be  is clear of any possible discharges from the ship
  • It  is within the parallel body length of the ship and, as far as is practicable, within the mid-ship half length of the ship
  • Each step must rest firmly against the ship’s side. Where constructional features would prevent this, special arrangements shall, to the satisfaction of the Administration, be made to ensure that persons are able to embark and disembark safely
  • The single length of pilot ladder is capable of reaching the water and allowance is made for all conditions of loading and trim of the ship, and for an adverse list of 15°

When accommodation ladders are used in conjunction with pilot ladders

  •  The accommodation ladder shall be sited leading aft
  •  Means shall be provided to secure the lower platform of the accommodation ladder firmly to the ship’s side
  • The lower end of the accommodation ladder is to be within within the parallel body length of the ship and, as far as is practicable, within the mid-ship half length
  • The lower end of the accommodation ladder is to be  clear of all discharges
  • Means shall be provided to secure the pilot ladder and manropes to the ship’s side at a point of nominally 1.5 m above the bottom platform of the accommodation ladder
  • When there is a trapdoor in the bottom platform, the pilot ladder and man ropes shall be rigged through the trapdoor  extending above the platform to the height of the handrail

What are the requirements for access to the ship’s deck?

See MSC 1428 for poster

  • There must be safe, convenient and unobstructed passage between the head of the pilot ladder, or of any accommodation ladder or other appliance, and the ship’s deck.
  • When a gateway in the rails or bulwark is used, adequate handholds shall be provided
  • When a bulwark ladder is used, two handhold stanchions rigidly secured to the ship’s structure at or near their bases and at higher points shall be fitted
  • A bulwark ladder shall be securely attached to the ship to prevent overturning

Shipside doors

Shipside doors used for pilot transfer shall not open outwards.

Equipment required at the pilot boarding location

The following associated equipment shall be kept at hand ready for immediate use when persons are being transferred:

  • Two man-ropes of not less than 28 mm and not more than 32 mm in diameter. The man-ropes shall be fixed at the rope end to the ring plate fixed on deck and shall be ready for use when required by the pilot.
  • A lifebuoy equipped with a self-igniting light
  • A heaving line
  •  When required, stanchions and bulwark ladders
  • Adequate lighting to illuminate the transfer arrangements overside and the position on deck where a person embarks or disembarks.

Some sources of useful information

A Really Handy Book to Learn the Collision Regulations

Amongst Navsbooks study guides for Kindle readers is this handy guide to revise the COLREGS.

Click here to download a sample from Amazon> 

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2 thoughts on “Pilot boarding- The SOLAS requirements

  1. […] The last post covered the pilot boarding arrangements required by SOLAS V, this post delves a bit deeper into the detail with a summary of some of the specifications and dimensions of pilot ladders. […]


  2. […] series of posts based on SOLAS V continues to explore some of the details behind Regulation 23, Pilot Transfer arrangements. This time exploring the specifications within Resolution A.1045(27) […]


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