My fall in the water on July 23, 2019 was an event which re-affirmed my faith in
God. Something I had to bear for someone else’s negligence. I was gratified to my God
for not inflicting any mental or bodily harm to me.
I am a Marine pilot in the Port of Sohar, Oman with an experience of more than 13
years in this technical field of pilotage. During my night shift on 23 July 2019 I was on
Pilot boat Svitzer, Al-Kharara, to board on m.v. Opal Fortune at 0130 hours. Like any
regular day, I geared up as per international safety standard and departed the pilot boat
by stepping on the pilot ladder. But, as soon as I stepped on the 3rd step of the pilot
ladder I heard rattling voice with the most horrifying realization of falling into the sea
due to the broken ladder, which started tumbling down with me resulting into my fall
between the ship and the pilot boat.
The inflation of life jacket jolted me to the severity of the situation and my
instant reflux was to open my both arms to avoid crushing between pilot boat and the
ship. This effort gave some scratches on both of my hands. Once I resurfaced, I saw the
Ship’s propeller behind me. Immediately I started to swim away from it, as it was
churning slowly. By my deliberate and conscious swimming, I was nearly able to miss the
propeller. During this swimming effort, I realized that my backpack was hindering my
efforts and sinking me down so I immediately took off my bag.
Though it was pitch dark but I spotted the broken pilot ladder and a life buoy
floating beside me. I swam towards the buoy and held it tightly. In the meantime, I saw
the pilot boat had turned around and was searching for me. I started shouting “ Ali..Ali”,
the crew on pilot boat. This made it possible for the boat crew to locate my position and
went inside the boat to update the Captain (Abu Shaker) regarding my position in water.
Captain tried to bring pilot boat beside me and he succeeded in second attempt. They
threw a rope to me which I tied to my arm. After that they pulled me toward the aft of
the pilot boat. I used the ladder to climb up the pilot boat. I was later taken to the
hospital by the officials and was very well taken care. Presence of my Harbour master
and colleagues at the hospital at that hour of the night, was very humbling. I felt much
relaxed in their presence. My family was also updated by them which made it easy for
them to reach me.
Those 15 minutes in the sea, were the scariest of my life as I was not sure of what
will happen next or even if I would survive! God’s special blessing it was!!! Thanks to the
bearable temperatures of the water in the Gulf of Oman, its low swell and quick
response of the pilot boat captain, who switched off its propeller immediately upon
seeing me falling, I was able to survive this accident unharmed, which could have proven
The accident is over and I was back on duty the next day, but a lot of questions
need to be answered and many concerns need to be addressed for the safety of marine
pilots all over the world and for the risk involved in this profession. These men are no
less than heroes who work day in day out and risk their lives to keep the world’s shipping
moving. The safety standards on ships, facilities for pilots and international regulations
to regulate the whole process are worth the risk? Think about it!