AMSA Safety Alert: Getting on board

AMSA Safety Alert: Getting on board

Raising awareness of the risks involved with getting on and off vessels.

Posted on 06.01.2020

Accessing a vessel while at berth is a routine activity and is sometimes taken for granted. The requirement for safe access can be overlooked, particularly where there are limited berthing options, or a vessel is only berthed for a short period. Failing to provide safe access can result in serious risk to people—even more so when bad weather or extreme tidal variation are thrown into the mix.

It is a legal requirement under the national law to provide safe access to a vessel. In addition to national law requirements, commercial vessels also need to address risks associated with falls under workplace health and safety regulations—including falls sustained getting on and off a vessel.

Managing access risks

1. Assess the risks

What are they? What could make them worse? What could happen to a person if things go wrong? How bad would the impact be?

2. Implement ways to control those risks

These might include:

  • Ensuring a ‘safe design’ gangway.
  • Limiting access in bad weather and if necessary, during extreme tidal variations.
  • Providing adequate lighting around the gangway at night to increase visibility.
  • Securing gangways clear of the wharf edge, or other potential hazards.
  • Including instructions on when and how to safely board the vessel—and when not to—in your crew safety inductions and signage. Under the general safety duties, crew and passengers must follow this instruction.
  • Encouraging your crew to report hazards associated with getting on and off the vessel.
  • Developing emergency procedures for possible incidents associated with access to the vessel i.e. falls, person overboard



Providing safe access to the vessel is essential in ensuring that everybody remains safe when embarking and disembarking the vessel. Remember the following:

  • select the right access equipment
  • assess all risks
  • allow time for safe rigging
  • monitor the means of access to ensure it remains safe
  • include vessel access equipment in your maintenance plan.

AMSA Safety Alert





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