Passenger Goes Overboard from Greek Ferry

Blue Horizon Ro-RoA young man went overboard from a passenger ship in the port of Piraeus four days ago, according to the Safety4Sea publication. During the evening of May 23, 2018, the passenger went overboard from the "RoRo" (roll on / roll off) ferry Blue Horizon, while the ship was still docked in the port of Piraeus.

The Piraeus Port Authority and the Hellenic Coast Guard authorities are reportedly searching for the 25 year-old man.

The man overboard incident was first reported after the passenger ship had departed from Piraeus for the port of Heraklion, with 255 passengers aboard; however, the ship returned to Piraeus once the officers realized that a passenger was missing. 

Safety4Sea states that once the Port Authority was notified, five patrol boats of the Hellenic Coast Guard and the Hellenic Navigation searched for the missing man without success. 

The Blue Horizon is owned and managed by Blue Star Ferries Maritime based in Athens, Greece.

Man overboards ("MOB's") are an issue which occur not only on large cruise ships but have been an ongoing problem regarding ferries and other passenger ships.  The most publicized case is that involving a young man on the Pride of Kent who went overboard several years ago. Richard Fearnside disappeared from the P&O Ferries ship, sailing across the English Channel, which like all other ferries operated by this company did not have an automatic man overboard system or, for that matter, even a single CCTV camera focused on an exterior deck. 

Richard's parents, Marianne and Bob Fearnside, of Whitstable, Kent (U.K.) have petitioned the ferry company to install cameras on the decks of its ships, without success to date. Over 100,000 have signed the petition to date

Photo credit:  Shipspotting via Safety4Sea

How Carnival's Failure to Install a Man Overboard System Doomed Passenger and Wasted U.S. Coast Guard Resources

In a press release, the the U.S. Coast Guard announced that it suspended its search and rescue efforts for a passenger who went overboard from the Carnival Paradise on May 22, 2018. The Coast Guard stated that it ended its search on the following day at approximately 9 P.M. (May 23, 2018), which is approximately 35 hours after Carnival notified it (at 10:00 A.M. on May 22nd) that a passenger was missing from the cruise ship. (The Coast Guard's press release erroneously states that it searched for 55 hours).

The Coast Guard indicated that its search covered a vast grid, consisting of over 3,000 square miles. 

The Coast Guard reportedly deployed a "C-130 Hercules aircraft and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Clearwater, an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft crew from Air Station Miami, and the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Isaac Mayo, homeported in Key West." 

The huge search grid and the deployment of a helicopter, two aircraft and a cutter to search over 3,000 square Carnival Paradise Man Overboardmiles were necessary due to Carnival's apparent delay in notifying the Coast Guard of the missing passenger, who was subsequently identified as Brian Lamonds of Greensboro, North Carolina. 

According to the press release, Coast Guard watchstanders in Key West received a call via marine band radio at approximately 10 A.M. on May 22nd from the cruise ship stating the passenger was missing and reportedly went overboard.

Based on the information received from Carnival, the Coast Guard stated that Mr. Lamonds went overboard "about 85 miles west of Fort Myers." This suggests that Mr. Lamonds probably went overboard early in the morning hours of May 22nd after the ship left Tampa late on the afternoon of May 21st.  Obviously the man overboard did not occur off the coast of Fort Meyers at 10:00 A.M. Fort Meyers is around 125 nautical miles north of Key West, which is around 6 to 8 hours away from Key West given an approximate vessel speed of 15 to 20 knots. If Carnival didn't notify the Coast Guard until 10:00 A.M., an hour from its scheduled arrival at 11:00 A.M., the cruise ship was probably just 15 or 20 nautical miles north of Key West at this point. The cruise ship had sailed for many hours since Mr. Lamonds went overboard. 

A passenger tweeted as of 10:01 A.M. on May 22nd "On the #CarnivalParadise ... they are now doing room to room searches for a passenger. Praying he’s passed out in a room." She later tweeted that the 11:00 A.M. disembarkation was delayed for at least 45 minutes.  So if this information is correct, it appears that Carnival was searching on the ship for him when it requested the Coast Guard to begin its search at 10:00 A.M.

The most likely scenario is that the Carnival Paradise is not equipped with an automatic man overboard system that would send a signal and sound an alarm in the bridge as soon as someone went over the rails of the ship. At that point, modern state-of-the-art systems would use infrared and radar technology to track the person in the water, even at night. 

Cruise ships that have not installed these systems have to rely on a report from a crew member or another guest who may have happened to witness the man going overboard. The ship's officers would then have to manually review CCTV surveillance videos to see if the man overboard can be verified and, if so, when and where the person went into the water. Many cruise lines require that the ship contact the marine operation and/or security department back in Miami before turning the ship around. In this case, we know from AIS data (right) that the Carnival Paradise never turned the ship around or conducted any type of search in the water.

The 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act requires cruise lines to employ current MOB technology whenever feasible. Many cruise lines and their defenders claim that the technology is not reliable. But there are highly reputable manufacturers with tested and proven technology that works impressively. 

I attended all of the many hearings in Congress before the automatic man overboard law was passed  eight years ago.  I watched the cruise lines and lobbying firms spend millions of dollars fighting against the legislation. It's disheartening to see the cruise lines still failing to install the systems. These systems save lives. Without such a system, cruise lines must review the CCTV video after-the-fact to see if it shows anyone going over the rails and then search the passenger cabins when their guest has already gone into the water hours earlier, to only then belatedly call on the Coast Guard to essentially search for a needle in a haystack.  Plus, it's a huge waste of time and taxpayer money (that the foreign flagged cruise industry doesn't have to pay).

I've sent a Freedom of Information (FOIA) to the Coast Guard to request for the details of exactly when Carnival notified the Coast Guard of the overboard guest, where the ship was located when it first realized that a guest was missing, and when and how the guest went overboard. I also will try to determine how much it costs for the Coast Guard to launch two search-aircraft, a helicopter and a cutter from stations around Florida to search a grid pattern of over 3,000 square miles for 35 hours. I estimate that the figure is probably around $1,000,000 which would have been far better spent in installing life-saving technology in the first place.

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Carnival Glory Loses Passenger Overboard - Why No Automatic MOB System?

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein reports that a cruise passenger has gone overboard from the Carnival Glory.

According to his CruiseJunkie website:

"From a reader: RE: Carnival Glory, departing Miami, Florida 2015-03-07 16:00. Sometime in the early morning hours of 2015-03-08, en route to Half Moon Cay, Bahamas the passenger went overboard. Carnival verified passenger was onboard and reviewed ships security tapes (according to passenger). Passenger indicates they DID NOT make port call at Half Moon Cay. Carnival GloryThey continued to do 'circles' along with another Carnival ship, looking for passenger."

As I have said many times, it's a shame that Carnival did not equip its cruise ships with the latest automatic man overboard system which can easily detect people going overboard and send a signal to the bridge in order to initiate immediate search and rescue operations. 

A Carnival brand, Holland America Line, touts that it is using thermal-activated MOB systems. See HAL Testing First-Ever Thermal Imaging Man Overboard System? 

I was recently intrigued to see a company called MARSS Mobtronic that is advertising a proven high-technology MOB system with a high probability rate. You can see an article discussing the technology here. 

Most cruise line are resisting compliance with the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security System's (CVSSA) requirement for an automatic MOB, claiming that man overboard technology is not reliable. That's patently a false and misleading argument. The technology clearly exists but the cruise industry simply does not wish to spend the money necessary to save lives. 

Carnival's blogging Cruise Director John Heald confirms the man overboard, a 21 year old man, stating: ". . . . the ship is currently en route to the location where the individual was seen on the camera footage and will commence search and rescue operations upon arrival."  

It should be embarrassing for Carnival to have such antiquated old school technology where an officer has to search through the surveillance camera footage after-the-fact to find evidence of a person going overboard and then turns the ship around after it sailed for one or two hundred miles. 

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March 10 2015 Update: The missing passenger is reportedly from Virginia Tech.

March 11 2015 Update: The young man's name, Cameron Smook, has been released.  U.K.'s Daily Mail has published an article which can be reviewed here.  

March 12 2015 Update: Statement by Senator Richard Blmenthal:

BLUMENTHAL STATEMENT ON END OF SEARCH FOR STUDENT WHO FELL OVERBOARD CRUISE SHIP AND CRUISE INDUSTRY’S CONTINUED FAILURE TO IMPLEMENT STRONGER SAFETY MEASURES

(Washington, DC) – Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) issued the following statement after the U.S. Coast Guard announced that they have suspended their search for a student who fell overboard while on a Carnival Cruise ship and was first reported missing Sunday morning.

“Today, as our thoughts and prayers with the family and friends of Cameron Smook, the stark tragic fact is that readily available life-saving technology could have spared him. Reprehensibly, five years after the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 was enacted, cruise lines still refuse to upgrade outdated video surveillance technology for the latest in automatic man overboard detection. The cruise industry should be ashamed and embarrassed by this failure to embrace this lifesaving technology. Such technology could have immediately detected Cameron’s fall and made sure valuable time was not wasted reviewing camera footage. In the last two months four individuals have fallen overboard from cruise ships. I will continue to fight for more effective commonsense safety and security measures, such as those included in the Cruise Passenger Protection Act, which I was proud to lead last Congress and intend to see strengthened and reintroduced this Congress.”

In 2013, Blumenthal introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act with Senator Rockefeller to address the serious incidents that continue to occur on cruise ships – a result of the industry’s failure to prioritize consumer awareness, safety, and security. The bill called for providing the over 20 million Americans who plan to take a cruise every year with critical information about the limited scope of their current consumer protections and would take steps to improve accountability in the industry.

March 12 2015 Update: A news station, WDBJ 7 (CBS) in Virginia interviewed me regarding this overboard. 

Photo Credit: Jordandkatz / Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0