It has been noted internationally as well as nationally that rope ladders onboard ships are sometimes in poor condition. In addition to the examples described below, it is not uncommon that rope ladders for lifeboats and rafts snap with the sudden force that can occur where they are thrown over the side.
Case no. 1
After departure, the pilot was going to disembark using a rope ladder which had been supplied to the ship a few months previously, and appeared to be in good condition. When the pilot had descended a couple of steps on the ladder, the rope broke on the right-hand side and a second later on the left-hand side too. The pilot fell into the water and glided along the side of the ship, tangled in the rope ladder. At the time the ship was doing about 5 knots. Fortunately the captain succeeded in stopping the main engine in time and the pilot could be rescued by the pilot boat shortly afterwards, relatively unharmed. In the investigation of the accident it was stated that the rope ladder, which was approved by SOLAS, was made of sisal rope, which is about 10% weaker than manila rope, and which had been rotted by microorganisms. The rope had also been severely chafed by the ladder rungs on both sides. Tension tests that were later carried out showed that the rope broke at a force of 160 kg instead of the normal 3,500 kg.
Case no. 2
When disembarking, the boatmen onboard the pilot boat noticed that one side of the rope ladder was so damaged that there were only a few fibres remaining to hold it together. When one of the boatmen pulled on the ladder, the rope on one side broke. He then warned the pilot about the condition of the rope ladder. The crew standing next to the ladder had not noticed that it was in poor condition and claimed that the boatman had broken it. One factor causing the rope ladder to be in such poor condition may be that they often lie on the deck and are covered by ice during the winter. When the rope ladder is next used, the crew hammer off the ice, breaking some of the fibres and considerably decreasing the strength of the rope ladder.
SFu journal no. 06.05.02-2010-3669