Routine is risky. Over the previous two months the crew of the containership MSC Siena had rigged the pilot ladder 30 times. The 31st time, on 17 November 2011 off Fremantle, a man was lost. No risk assessment had been done to take account of the weather conditions says Australia’s Transport Safety Board, ATSB, report on the incident.
The account is harrowing: “At about 1123, as the bosun watched the OS, he saw a ‘large wave suddenly rise up’ and strike the underside of the bottom platform of the accommodation ladder with force (the rope lashing the ladder to the shipside lugs parted). A loud bang was heard on deck and the bosun then saw the OS hanging from his harness rope, under the accommodation ladder’s bottom platform. Seeing that the OS had fallen off the ladder, the bosun began yelling.
“On hearing the yells, the seaman and the cadet looked over the side and saw the OS suspended about 1 m below the bottom platform. He was shouting for help while trying to hold on to the lower part of the pilot ladder. His legs were often submerged in the rough seas which were pounding his body against the ship’s side, the platform and the pilot ladder, and repeatedly breaking his hold on the ladder.