January 2022: Passenger safety when boarding and disembarking

This update provides information about the importance of ensuring passenger safety while boarding and disembarking vessels via mobile gangways and ramps.

This safety update is for:

  • New Zealand ship owners, operators and skippers
  • Maritime New Zealand maritime officers, investigators, and technical advisors.



In 2020 a passenger was injured when part of the boarding ramp slipped off the vessel while he was disembarking.



Maritime New Zealand found that the risk of the boarding ramp slipping had not been identified or assessed through the operator’s risk assessment process, and so appropriate control measures had not been put in place to manage the risks to passenger and crew safety.

Multiple factors were found to have potentially contributed to the ramp slipping off the vessel, including:

  • There was insufficient overlap between the boarding ramp and the vessel deck.
  • Passengers were in a rush and crowded on the aft deck, which caused the vessel trim and freeboard to change, further decreasing the overlapping area.
  • Wind, waves, or other factors may have caused the vessel to heave and move away from the ramp.


Safety reminder

Maintaining the safety of passengers while they are boarding and disembarking is a high priority for any passenger vessel operator.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, PCBUs must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of workers and others is not put at risk from the PCBU’s work. This includes ensuring, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the means of entering and exiting the workplace (in this case, the boarding ramp) are without risks to the health and safety of any person. Operators must identify the risks associated with boarding and disembarking, and eliminate the risks or use appropriate control measures to minimise them. For example:

  • Monitor boarding and disembarking arrangements to ensure these are safe, taking into account factors such as external influences (wind, tide, other vessels), safe mooring, and vessel draught, trim, and heel.
  • When using a boarding ramp or mobile gangway, make sure there is a sufficient amount of the ramp/gangway placed on the deck to ensure the safety of people using it.
  • Frequently check the boarding ramp or mobile gangway to ensure it is correctly positioned.
  • Brief and assist passengers before boarding and disembarking a vessel.

Operators must make sure that skippers and crew are involved in the risk management process, and understand how to follow the control measures that are put in place.


More information

Hazards and risks - HSWA guidance [PDF: 613kB, 8 pages] Identifying, assessing and managing work risks [worksafe.org.nz] Health and Safety: Reasonably practicable [PDF: 44kB, 2 pages] Health and Safety: Worker engagement [PDF: 51kB, 2 pages]


Contact us for more help

If you have any questions about this safety update, please contact our Wellington office.


New Zealand (toll free):
0508 225 522


Tell us what you need help with and remember to include your contact details (email address and phone numbers).