HIGHLANDS, NJ — A veteran harbor pilot fell to his death Monday morning while boarding a container ship in New York Harbor, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The fall took place while both ships were docked at the Ambrose pilots’ station, which is located in a channel of water between Staten Island and Brooklyn, said a U.S. Coast Guard representative.
The harbor pilot has been identified as Captain Dennis Sherwood, who lived in Freehold, according to the Sandy Hook Pilots Association. The accident happened at 4:30 Monday morning, when Sherwood was attempting to board the container ship Maersk Kensington.
“The container ship is much larger than the pilot ship and he fell while climbing what’s known as a Jacob’s Ladder onto the bigger ship,” said Petty Officer John Hightower with the U.S. Coast Guard. “There was some sort of accident and he fell back onto the pilot vessel.”
After the fall, Sherwood was taken to a hospital on Staten Island, where he eventually succumbed to his injuries, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Sandy Hook Pilots Association is a union of the harbor pilots who work in New York Harbor and at the Port of New York and New Jersey. Sherwood was a long experienced mariner, and had been piloting vessels in and out of New York Harbor for more than 35 years, the group said.
A harbor pilot is someone who navigates foreign or large ships through harbors or small bodies of water. They usually have an excellent understanding and familiarity with the body of water they are navigating and are especially useful for large container ships to be taken into the Port of New York & New Jersey.
According to its profile, the Maersk Kensington was scheduled to dock at Newark on Monday. It was carrying cargo from all over the world, from ports as far flung as Spain, Oman and Dubai.
Sherwood leaves behind a wife and four children.
The U.S. Coast Guard is handling the investigation, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. NYPD Harbor Police and the New York City Fire Department also responded to the fatal fall Monday morning.