Published: May 1, 2019

There are different ways of Carrying out transfers of personnel from one ship to another, but the most important thing is that they are always conducted safely. No two transfer operations are the same and each type has a variety of risk factors, but here we will set out several important points to consider:


Check in advance with the flag state, classification society and port state to see if they have specific requirements for transfer of personnel in their territorial waters.


Choosing the right equipment for the transfer is very important and it must also be properly maintained in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions and as part of the ship’s planned maintenance system (PMS).

Crane: If using a ship’s hose-handling or provision crane, it must be upgraded before transferring personnel. The classification society will be able to give exact details which could include installing the following:

  • Secondary braking system in case of brake failure
  • Manual override in case of power failure
  • Safety locking latch on the crane hook

Basket: The platform used for transferring is often referred to as a basket due to its shape and there are many different types of transfer baskets available. They all must be approved and certified for carrying personnel and should not be used for other purposes on board e.g. as work platforms. The type of basket will depend on how many people and how much equipment needs to be carried, taking into consideration the design of each ship. The weight must be evenly distributed so that the basket does not tip and tag lines are normally attached to each side to control the basket. The tag lines must not be too long or they may become wrapped around the basket or get caught in other equipment, compromising the stability of the basket.


A plan for the transfer of personnel should be prepared in advance and form part of the ship’s safety management system (SMS). The plan must include a thorough risk assessment of the entire operation and must be approved by the masters of both ships involved and communicated to all personnel involved. The plan should identify all risks and include pre-testing of equipment, clear lines of communication and a contingency plan in case of emergency. The risk assessment should consider as minimum:

  • Anticipated weather
  • Movement of both ships
  • Correct use of personal protection equipment for all involved
  • Height of lift, clearance of pick up and definition of landing area

All personnel involved must understand the transfer plan and should feel comfortable with all aspects of the operation. It can be intimidating to transfer from one ship to another and nobody should be forced to do this unless they are satisfied.


All personnel involved must be aware of their duties and responsibilities and receive proper training in all aspects of the operation. The crane driver in particular must be experienced and fully familiar with the correct use and abilities of the crane and lifting equipment. Those using the basket must be familiar with each specific type of basket, how to get on and off and how to secure all loose parts. They must also know what to do in case of an emergency.


There will always be risks when transferring personnel between two ships at sea. However, as with all operations, you must use properly certified and well maintained equipment and have a comprehensive plan combined with a thorough risk assessment


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