Unintended movement of pilot boat Haven Harrier during crew boarding with 1 person injured

Location: Landguard Pontoon, Felixstowe, England.

Completed PE Summary: Haven Harrier

A short summary of the accident and action taken:

Merchant Vessel/Accident Details
Vessel Name Haven Harrier
Ship Owner/Manager Harwich Haven Harbour Authority
Port of Registry Harwich
Flag UK
Type Pilot boat
Construction Glass reinforced plastic (GRP)
Length Overall 16m
Gross Tonnage 27
Date/Time 27/11/2008, 0835 (UTC)
Location of Incident Landguard pontoon, Felixstowe
Incident Type Accident to person
Persons Onboard 2
Injuries/Fatalities 1 injury
Damage/Pollution Minor hull damage


Landguard Pontoon had been recently established to provide tug berths and a pilot boarding and landing facility during port expansion works at Felixstowe. On the morning of the accident, the coxswain of the pilot boat Haven Harrier agreed to transport three tug crew members from the pontoon to Harwich.

Haven Harrier approached the pontoon with the coxswain at the helm and the deckhand at the bow to assist as required. The coxswain manoeuvred the boat so as to lean the port shoulder onto the pontoon’s tyre fenders while the men boarded. The first two men stepped on board, without incident. The third man, who was carrying two small bags in his right hand, stepped onto a tyre fender with his right foot and was about to step onto the boat’s deck with his left foot. The boat’s bow pitched down and the man, realising that he was in danger of falling onto the boat, decided to fall backwards onto the pontoon instead. As he did so, the bow pitched up, rode over the fender, and then pitched down again, trapping the man’s lower leg between the pontoon and the boat’s hull.

Action taken

Risk assessments for use of the pontoon have since been revised and operational instructions now require:

  • pilot boats to reduce speed well in advance of approaching the pontoon;

  • vessels to be parallel alongside and secured with at least one line before boarding or disembarkation begins; and

  • tyre fenders not to be used as steps during boarding or disembarkation.

The Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents has written to the Chief Executive of Harwich Haven Authority with respect to the use of objective marine expertise in future risk assessments, and to the dangers of complacency.

Published: January 2009

Published 23 January 2015