Fishing vessel safety announcement: boarding ladders

Rules for construction and use of boarding ladders on fishing vessels.

When was the last time you checked the condition of your boarding ladder?

So far in 2021, Marine Scotland have issued 3 Fixed Penalty Notices to fishing Masters for providing unregulated, or dangerous boarding ladders to inspectors.

Read the rules, avoid the fine and please help to keep everybody safe.

Annex XXIX of EU 404/2011 as read with the EU Withdrawal Act 2020 requires fishing vessels with a climb of 1.5m (measured from the waterline) to provide a boarding ladder.

ANNEX XXIX (EU 404/2011)


The provisions of this Annex shall apply to safe and convenient access to fishing vessels which require a climb of 1,5 metres or more.

A boarding ladder shall be provided which shall be efficient for the purpose of enabling inspectors to embark and disembark safely at sea. The boarding ladder shall be kept clean and in good order.

The ladder shall be positioned and secured so that:

  • it is clear of any possible discharges from the fishing vessel;
  • it is clear of the finer lines and as far as practicable in the middle length of the fishing vessel;
  • each step rests firmly against the fishing vessel’s side.

The steps of the boarding ladder shall:

  • be of hardwood or other material of equivalent properties, made in one piece free of knots; the four lowest steps may be made of rubber of sufficient strength and stiffness, or of other suitable material of equivalent characteristics;
  • have an efficient non-slip surface;
  • be not less than 480 mm long, 115 mm wide, and 23 mm in thickness, excluding any non-slip device or grooving;
  • be equally spaced not less than 300 mm or more than 380 mm apart;
  • be secured in such a manner that they will remain horizontal.

No boarding ladder shall have more than two replacement steps which are secured in position by a method different from that used in the original construction of the ladder and any steps so secured shall be replaced, as soon as reasonably practicable, by steps secured in position by the method used in the original construction of the ladder.

When any replacement step is secured to the side ropes of the boarding ladder by means of grooves in the side of the step, such grooves shall be in the longer sides of the steps.

The side ropes of the ladder shall consist of two uncovered manila or equivalent ropes not less than 60 mm in circumference on each side; each rope shall be left uncovered by any other material and be continuous with no joints below the top step; two main ropes, properly secured to the fishing vessel and not loss than 65 mm in circumference, and a safety line shall be kept at hand ready for use if required.

Battens made of hardwood, or other material of equivalent properties, in one piece, free of knots and between 1,8 and 2 m long, shall be provided at such intervals as will prevent the boarding ladder form twisting. The lowest batten shall be on the fifth step from the bottom of the ladder and the interval between any batten and the next shall not exceed nine steps.

Means shall be provided to ensure safe and convenient passage for inspectors embarking on or disembarking from the vessel between the head of the boarding ladder or of any accommodation ladder or other appliance provided, and the ship’s deck. Where such passage is by means of a gateway in the rails or bulwark, adequate handholds shall be provided.

 Where such passage is by means of a bulwark ladder, such ladder shall be securely attached to the bulwark rail or platform and two handhold stanchions shall be fitted at the point of boarding or leaving the vessel not less than 0,70 m or more than 0,80 m apart. Each stanchion shall be rigidly secured to the vessel’s structure at or near its base and also at a higher point, shall be not less than 40 mm in diameter, and shall extend not less than 1,20 m above the top of the bulwark.

Lighting shall be provided at night so that both the boarding ladder over the side and also the position where the inspector boards the fishing vessel shall be adequately lit. A lifebuoy equipped with a self-igniting light shall be kept at hand ready for use. A heaving line shall be kept at hand ready for use if required.

Means shall be provided to enable the boarding ladder to be used on either side of the fishing vessel. The inspector in charge may indicate which side he would like the boarding ladder to be positioned.

The rigging of the ladder and the embarkation and disembarkation of an inspector shall be supervised by a responsible officer of the fishing vessel.

Where on any fishing vessel constructional features such as rubbing bands would prevent the implementation of any of these provisions, special arrangements shall be made to ensure that inspectors are able to embark and disembark safely.

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