Australia fines ship’s operator and captain after pilot ladder falls and injures him

A magistrates’ court in Perth, Australia, has convicted the captain and operator of a Cyprus-flagged cargo ship after an accident involving a substandard pilot ladder.

The case was brought by Australia’s maritime safety regulator, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).

AAL Dampier Navigation Co Ltd, the company behind the ship, EEL Dampierand the ship’s captain were found guilty of safety violations that led to the accident in August 2022.

The incident happened when EEL Dampier left the port of Fremantle on 24 August 2022. A Navy pilot was injured while disembarking from the ship after falling from a broken pilot ladder. The ropes snapped and he fell about seven meters onto the deck of the pilot boat.

The pilot was taken to the hospital with serious injuries.

After the accident, AMSA officials and investigators boarded the ship for inspection. They discovered and confiscated a portion of the ropes, which upon inspection proved to be severely defective and clearly unusable for its purpose. Neglect of proper storage and ineffective inspection routines have been identified as likely causes of the rope’s poor condition.

AAL Dampier Navigation admitted it had failed to comply with Marine Order 21 (Safety and Emergency Precautions) 2016. The company pleaded guilty to failing to comply with pilot transfer procedure regulations. The court ordered the company to pay a $30,500 fine.

The ship’s captain was charged for failing to ensure a safe disembarkation process for the pilot under Marine Order 21 (Safety and Emergency Precautions) 2016. In addition, he was held responsible under the Navigation Act 2012 for putting an unfit vessel to sea. He pleaded guilty to both counts and was fined a total of $5,500.

Michael Drake, AMSA’s Executive Director of Operations, said he was pleased with the ruling and stressed the importance of safety precautions in the high-risk job of naval pilots.

“AMSA is a strict but fair regulator. We will remain unwavering in our commitment to preventing threats to human life, be it a pilot or a seaman,” said Drake.

The sentencing is a stark reminder to all ships and seafarers of their duty to comply with maritime safety standards.

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