Basket Case


Transferring people between vessels is a high risk operation. Despite being well regulated in the offshore industry, similar controls have not been commonplace in shipping.   

To address this, new guidance has been issued by Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) on transferring personnel by crane between vessels.

The guide outlines the risks involved in the transfer of personnel by crane and provides best practice on how to do it safely and using the right equipment.

Bridging the gap

In the offshore industry, cranes used for personnel transfer are certified for “man riding”. However, a similar safety focus has not been evident in the shipping world, despite the risks and dangers being very similar. There has previously been no restriction preventing the transfer of several persons at a time on any available ship’s crane regardless of its design. There has also been a notable complacency with regard to the dangers involved in such operation by ships’ crews.

The new OCIMF guidelines are designed to bridge this safety gap.

All the gear is the right idea!

OCIMF provides several recommendations on crane requirements, some of which are:

  • The crane should be located on the parallel mid-body
  • The safe working load (SWL) should be reduced by 50% when carrying people
  • A wire safety factor of 10:1
  • The crane’s brakes should automatically activate when in neutral, or the emergency stop is activated or in the event of power failure
  • Brakes should have a manual override
  • The hook should be fitted with a positive locking safety latch
  • Cranes should have emergency means of recovery from any position

The guide lays out a series of important recommendations surrounding the design of the Personnel Transfer Baskets (PTB). These include:

  • The PTB should be fully certified and meet Flag State and classification society requirements
  • The SWL (or capacity) and empty weight are clearly marked
  • The PTB should be rigid, able to float and be self-righting

Check, check and double-check! 

OCIMF stresses the importance of a well-planned inspection programme that is incorporated into planned maintenance and safety management systems.

This includes the crew’s pre-use checks which should be conducted before every transfer operation. Contingency plans should be in place for personnel transfer; subject to the appropriate risk assessment, this includes the provision of any safety equipment that may be required in the event of an incident.

Knowledge is power

Guidance on crew training highlights the need for crewmembers with key roles and those being transferred to be sufficiently knowledgeable. A toolbox talk carried out prior to any transfer is extremely important so everyone understands the operation and knows their role.

We can all learn

The OCIMF guide is aimed at tanker operators, but this best practice advice can apply to any type of vessel that carries out transfers of personnel. All operators can learn to conduct such transfers in a safer and more efficient manner.

The OCIMF guide ‘Transfer of Personnel by Crane between Vessels’ can be downloaded at:


Author: John Southam
Loss Prevention Executive