Today's news that a search is underway to rescue a crew member who apparently jumped from the Grand Princess cruise ship early this morning illustrates a continuing problem with the cruise industry.
A Coast Guard spokesperson said that there was a 2 hour delay between the crew members going overboard and notification to the Coast Guard.
The 2010 Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act of 2010 required, effective January 1, 2012, that cruise cruise would install automatic man overboard systems. The legislative intent of the cruise safety act was to make certain that cruise ships had systems in place to notify them immediately when passengers (or crew) went overboard so that the ship would initiate immediate search and rescue procedures.
State-of-the-art systems currently exist. When a person goes overboard, the system will send a signal to the bridge, infrared images are recorded, and the cruise ship can mark the exact coordinates of the ship.
It was extensively debated at several Congressional hearings that "old school" technology, of pouring through hours of surveillance videos after-the-fact, is inadequate to respond reasonably to emergencies when person go into the sea.
Right now, the cruise message boards indicate that the Grand Princess, along with the nearby Star Princess, and an unidentified cargo ship, are searching the waters some 1,000 miles out at sea from Hawaii. A C-130 Hercules aircraft, courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard, is flying the great distance to assist in the search at considerable expense.
Unfortunately, this is not unlike searching for a needle in a haystack.
The delay and substantial expense of a tardy search & rescue could be eliminated if cruise lines complied with the cruise safety law. Rescue efforts could be initiated immediately if the existing technology were implemented. And the chances of a successful rescue could be substantially improved as well.
Another person disappeared from the same Princess cruise ship less than two months ago. A passenger went overboard from the Grand Princess on November 13, 2013.
In both cases, the Princess ships apparently had no overboard systems. In both cases, Princess had to eventually review the surveillance video to find out what happened. In both cases Princess announced that the person committed suicide. Having old school video doesn't count. It does not matter either that the person went overboard because of a suicide, as opposed to an accidental fall or being thrown overboard.
Cruise lines that have not invested in the new technology because of the costs of installing the new systems are causing massive costs to the Coast Guard that U.S. taxpayers pay. They are sloughing off their legal obligations and passing the costs to all of us.
Non-compliant cruise lines like Princess should be responsible for all costs unnecessarily incurred by the Coast Guard in cases like this.
You can see a video of the case by a San Francisco news station here.
Image Credit: gCaptain