A gangway is a narrow walkway or platform that provides safe access to a ship, truck, or train.
Gangways are typically used for two purposes: to allow passage or people and/or cargo to/from docks, moored marine vessels, or aircraft, or in the maintenance and loading/unloading of land-based trucks and trains. The models used for ships or boats are typically long so that they don’t slip off platforms or provide unsafe crossing for personnel walking on them and terms like “tower,” “truss,” or “telescoping” are added to better describe how and where the marine loading platforms are used. They can also be referred to as accommodation ladder and the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, and other government agencies refer to these platforms as brows. The types of gangways used for loading/unloading trucks or railcars are typically shorter in length, and span gap from vehicle to a platform, giving workers and personnel access to load, unload or inspect the vehicle. They also may include additional safety or technical features to assist workers.
Aviation gangways, also called jet bridges, airstairs, or boarding ramps, are generally used to allow passengers to board and deplane aircraft, and come in mobile varieties, as well as tunnel-like versions that connect to terminals.
Types of Gangways
Marine Stage Gangways
Also known as vessel stage gangways, barge ship gangways, or simply stage gangways, these portable, aluminum gangways allow crew and passengers to embark and disembark from ships. While they are typically kept on quays — or dockside — some smaller versions are kept onboard vessels for added versatility and flexibility.
These shorter, non-fixed systems can be maneuvered by hand, crane, or davit, and provide secure passage via ridged steps or marine treads, depending on the steepness of the angle egress. They are available in standard lengths and designs or can be custom designed for safety and meet customers’ specific needs.
Used mostly for nonpermanent applications, truss gangways allow the loading and unloading of cargo from ships and other offshore platforms.
Truss gangways can be attached to a fixed platform, mobile platform, or no platform at all, and can handle significant sizes and loads of cargo. They are typically larger and more robust than stage gangways and can feature various kinds of walk surfaces to provide secure footing and safe passage for personnel and equipment.
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Telescopic/Telescoping Marine Gangways
Typically very large and powered, these versatile and retractable gangways provide convenient access to offshore installations, as well as access to difficult-to-reach areas on ships and between ship and shore.
Able to be mounted on a tower, column, or jetty, these hydraulically actually gangways can also handle utility transfer lines for cargo, water, mud, electricity, and fuel. When they are positioned on tankers, they can be put into freewheel mode and follow the movements of the ship without adjustment. The telescopic marine gangway system is extremely popular due its small need for storage space, versatile capability to work through a very wide range, and assured access for operators.
Typically built on a four-legged tower structure and incorporating a crane, these gangways are generally telescopic and feature multiple levels that move up and down to different levels to accommodate a wide range of ship deck levels and movements (loading/unloading, surge, sway, drifts, etc).
The gangway’s movements are powered by hydraulic cylinders or winches operated by a hydraulic control box mounted on the lift platform. Once the gangway has been positioned on the ship’s deck and reaches its maximum high or low angle, the lift platform will automatically move to the next level without the need for an operator. Each lift station is accessible via the stairs and platforms mounted inside the tower structure.
Marine Column Gangways
These gangways are mounted on large cylinders, similar to very large power wire poles. They don’t move up and down but do normally telescope.
Marine column gangways are ideal for jetties lacking free space and deck heights that can be guaranteed within a certain range. They are fitted with turntables that allow them to rotate from a parking position parallel to the waterfront and around to the ship. They can also be fitted with cranes for loading cargo, or as an alternate way to deploy the gangway.
Their simple design and construction can be easily installed on very small footprints, providing long and reliable life, as well as safe and reliable vessel access.
Articulating Fixed Length Marine Gangways
Often more economical than column or tower gangways, these gangways can be designed to give a widespread of working heights. Their fixed-length design causes these gangways to occupy a larger area on the jetty, providing access to vessels of limited height range and low tidal variations.
These gangways can be raised and lowered using simple hand winches or hydraulic/electrically powered winches. They can often be track-mounted, as well, so they can be moved away from the jetty line when not in use.
While technicality, not gangways, accommodation ladders essentially serve the same purpose. Normally found on larger, ocean-going ships, these portable flights of steps serve as gangways attached to the sides of ships, not docks. Accommodation ladders can be mounted either parallel or perpendicular to the ship’s board. Parallel ladders must have an upper platform — typically a turntable — while the lower platform (or the ladder itself) hangs on a bail and can be lifted as required.
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Also known as airstairs, these gangways are often built into the front passenger doors on the side of aircraft or underneath the tail. They can also be occasionally found stowed underneath the forward door.
The most common type of integrated gangway — found in smaller business, regional, and private aircraft — is part of a clamshell-style passenger door. The stairs add little weight to the door and allow people to board or exit the aircraft when the door is lowered to the ground.
Ventral gangways allow entry and exit from under the rear of the plane, as well as provide a platform for parachuting during a flight.
Also known as passenger boarding stairs, boarding ramps, stair cars, or aircraft steps, these ground-based, rolling gangways provide a safe, portable stairway between aircraft and the tarmac.
Smaller models are pushed or towed, while larger models are driven like other ground support vehicles. Mobile gangways can be open or covered, and most can be raised or lowered to service various aircraft. In addition to coverings, the gangways can be augmented with lighting, heat, and other features.
These long, enclosed gangways — also referred to as jetways, sky bridges, or passenger boarding bridges (PBB) — are movable, accordion-like connectors that allow people to board and exit aircraft (and sometimes cruise ships and other sea vessels) from passenger terminals.
Jet bridges are typically attached to the terminal building via a pivot or rotunda. An operator in a cabin at the end of the tube can control the horizontal swing of the bridge, as well as raise, lower, extend, or retract the bridge in order to move it into position or adjust for aircraft of different sizes.
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Truck and Railcar Gangways
Built to articulate and self-level, these gangways can accommodate vehicles of varying heights. With a one-piece stair design, welds are reduced and failures are virtually eliminated. Easily retrofitted to replace old, unsafe models, self-adjusting gangways are factory installed, pre-set, and calibrated for fast and easy installation.
While these gangways are extremely rugged, their spring counterbalances require minimal effort on the part of operators. Their positive locking system in any position protects drivers and operators automatically, improving ergonomics for healthier employees and a safer workplace.
These flat ramp loading platform gangways feature a simple, sturdy design ideally suited for hopper car and truck applications. They are especially effective when the platform height and the vehicle height are equal to each other.
These gangways feature slip-resistant walk surfaces, as well as rubber bumpers for vehicle protection, machine-quality pivot points, and hot-dipped galvanized steel base tread.
Popular for railcar applications, these gangways use a telescoping extension and handrails to eliminate gaps on narrow railcars, increasing safety and access. In addition to slip-resistant walk surfaces, they feature counterbalanced, adjustable springs that help raise and lower the units with minimal effort. Their rugged, oversized parts help them stand up to years of abuse.
Like most industrial equipment, an access gangway is but one part of a bigger system that must function as one to work correctly. The details of your specific application will determine which model of gangway (and related equipment) will best meet your needs. Consult a manufacturer’s representative or safety consultant prior to ordering.
The #1 Selling Gangway in North America
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OSHA Gangway Safety in Marine Cargo Handling
Workers involved in marine cargo handling operations frequently use gangways to board and depart vessels. Workers have been injured or killed by falling into the water or onto surfaces below due to the improper rigging and trimming of gangways. When a gangway is used, it must meet the following requirements:
- A gangway, when possible, must be a minimum of 20 inches wide.
- Each side of the gangway and turntable must be protected with handrails and midrails.
- Handrails must be at least 33 inches high.
- Railings must be made of wood, pipe, chain, wire, rope or other materials of equal strength.
- Chain, wire, and rope railings must be kept taut (tightly strung).
- Portable stanchions that provide support for the railings must be secured to prevent them from coming loose.
- A net must be provided to prevent workers from falling into the water or to a lower level.
- If there is more than a one-foot gap between the gangway and the edge of an apron, a bridge with a firm walkway must be installed that has handrails and midrails on both sides.
- Keep gangways clear. Do not lay anything on or across a gangway, including supporting bridles, wires, or hoses.
- If a gangway bridle cannot be moved from the gangway, it must be properly marked to alert employees of the danger (hitting head).
Report any problems found with a gangway to a supervisor immediately. For further information, see 29 CFR 1918.21 and 1918.22.
Basic Gangway Components
Each gangway is equipped with the following basic components, as defined by the International Standard:
- Side Stringer — This is the longitudinal-strength section of the gangway that holds cross-members, stanchions, roller, wheels, lifting lugs, and other components.
- Cross-member — This piece holds the side stringer in position, providing support for the decking.
- Decking — This flat-topped, corrugated plate serves as the gangway floor.
- Steps — These are long, flat battens fitted proud of the decking or anti-slip arc material attached at both sides of stringers for load-bearing. They produce improved foot grip when the gangway is inclined horizontally.
- Guard Rails — Supported by stanchions, these hand and intermediate guide rails prevent falls from the gangway.
- Anti-slip Securing Parts — Hooked to the hook plate, eye pad, or angle section at the upper end of the side stringer, these components maintain the gangway’s firm connection with the shipboard structure in order to prevent slippage.
- Removable Connection Parts — Hooked to the side stringer at the end of two parted sections of the gangway, these components allow securing parts to be disconnected and connected, joining the two-parted section of the gangway as a single gangway, or dividing one complete gangway into two sections.
Gangways differ from other types of walkways or platforms, as they usually need to be moved, repositioned, and/or rotated in order to allow for worker passage or material loading.
They also include other distinguishing features that help operators accomplish their tasks.
For example, while some gangways are constructed with steel, many are made from lighter metals like aluminum, which is half the density of steel but equally strong. These lighter and more dynamic gangways are easier to move and adjust, whether they are laid out to connect with walkways or simply fine-tuned while already deployed.
The surfaces upon which people walk across gangways can also vary.
While gangways sometimes consist of single flat surfaces that act as ramps, many aluminum gangways feature passages divided into several segmented steps — regardless of whether or not the gangway is used as a staircase. These steps are not directly connected to each other, but instead through systems along the sides that ensure they remain upright regardless of the gangway’s orientation. This allows the gangway to be raised or lowered without any concern for whether a person can make it across safely, which is often a problem with ramps built with single flat surfaces.