In the UK water pilot overall accident rate for all vessels types reported was about 1 incident per1000 vessel movements. Commercial vessels were over 10 times more likely to suffer an incident than passenger vessels (1 in 240 vessel movements compared with 1 in 3000 for passenger vessels). Overall, there was one injury in 42,000 vessel movements (of all types) – and a very high proportion of these (around 30%) were fatalities.

Over 92% of all incidents types reported were classified as “minor”, with only 1%referred to as “serious”. The most common types of incidents were those that a)took place on board a vessel, b) were due to vessel contact with a fixed object and, c) were due to machinery failure. The main factors for marine incidents  were reported as a inappropriate vessel navigation (34%), b) mechanical failure (29.5%), and c) breach of regulation (14%).

In this project, we have been working with current British sea pilots, the RNLI and Port of London Authority to design a safer, more cost-effective and robust system for pilot transfers worldwide.

Through extensive research, interviewing and prototyping we found two insights and set our aim of designing to ensure all pilots globally use a safe ladder in every port around the world.  

Insight : 

The vessel owner doesn't know and doesn't want to repair the ladder if it is not fully broken. It causes a lot of time pilot fell into the water because of a broken step.
Communication problems and misunderstanding make them harder to onboard or find out the situation is safe or not for boarding.

We wanted to ensure the ladders are maintained regularly and ships always follow rigging procedures. We wanted to achieve this without the need to redesign the ships architecture, which would be complex, costly and impractical.

We have designed a simple and easy to use modular ladder encompassing the classic pilots ladder design where parts can be replaced quickly, easily and in a more cost-effective way for the ship. The manufacturing and replacement of these parts would be managed in a centralised SPA HQ where old modules are also collected and used for continual development of the ladders design.  

The SPA system also comes with a smartphone app, which can be downloaded by all pilots and ships across the globe, which is our solution to breaking down language barriers and ensuring correct ladder rigging. The SPA app allows a pilot to rate a ships ladder, communicate with other pilots and even help with managing their work through a number of tools.

Developed in collaboration with Yu Li and Sponsored by Lloyd's Resister Foundation