MSC Cruises Implements New Man Overboard System Amidst Industry Delays

MSC Cruises announced that it installed a state-of-the-art man overboard system on the MSC Meraviglia and is planning to deploy similar systems across its fleet of cruise ships. 

According to Seatrade Cruise News, MSC Cruises developed an "intelligent video capturing and analysis system" in collaboration with security technology experts, Bosch and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The Swiss-based cruise line announced that it has tested the new man overboard system on the company’s newest ship which debuted in June. MSC reported that "through over 25,000 hours of video analysis, extensive software testing and continuous algorithmic updates, the system has now reached a confirmed accuracy level of 97%."

Seatrade also explained that the data and images are analysed by two separate and independent image processing systems which significantly lower false alerts. Once the alarm is activated in case of an overboard, an acoustic signal and light will notify the ship’s security officer, in a central security room, who can immediately retrieve and review the images and data and immediately notify the bridge to begin rescue efforts.

We have criticized MSC in the past because crew members and passengers have disappeared from ships without this type of technology.  Brazilian crew member Simone Scheuer Sousa disappeared from the MSC Musica earlier this summer. MSC's untimely response to an overboard passenger from the MSC Divina, the first person reported overboard this year, illustrated the need for an automatic Security Today MOB man overboard system.   

Seatrade Cruise News has recently focused on man overboard systems. In September, it interviewed Captain Reidulf Maalen of Global Maritime Services about a system called the "Multi-Sensor Offshore Safety System (SOS)." The SOS is advertised as "an automatic alert system that employs advanced integrated sensor technology to instantaneously detect anyone falling overboard in real time and immediately alert the bridge."

Earlier this month, Security Today featured an article titled Man Overboard! which explained the need for an automatic man overboard system, stating that "man overboard events continue to be a common occurrence within the cruise industry." The article discussed a system designed by PureTech Systems which uses thermal video technology which captures images of people going overboard. 

The PureTech website explains that "man overboard events continue to be a common occurrence within the cruise industry." Since 2005, 268 people have gone overboard from cruise ships; on average, 22 people fall off a cruise ship every year; and 86% of those victims do not survive or are never found.

These systems are in addition to several other systems which we have written about over the years, including the MOBtronic system designed by MARSS. 

An article by Captain Abdelkhalik Kamal Eldin Soliman Selmy in the Maritime Executive titled Boost to Man Overboard Detecting Regulations Needed explains that the number of man overboard situations "is increasing as cruise passenger numbers increase," yet cruise ships monitor their decks and sides only with surveillance cameras. Most cruise lines do not actively monitor their CCTV surveillance cameras and there is considerable delay between a report of a missing friend or loved one and the ship finally taking action to initiate a search.  But equipping cruise ships with advanced detection and alert systems (such as those discussed above) will dramatically decrease the potential for crew or passengers to be lost at sea.

Unfortunately, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) does not mandate the use of such technology. Trade organizations, like the Cruise Line International Organizations (CLIA), unreasonably resist the move toward this life-saving technology, citing a myriad of excuses (alleging the cost and unreliability of the technology) which are belied by the success of the systems which are available on the market today.  

In response to Captain Selmy's article, CLIA wrote an editorial which the Maritime Executive published titled Man Overboard Incidents Are Uncommon On Cruise Ships containing the usual self-serving opinions by the cruise industry trade organization that "cruise ships remain one of the safest ways to travel." 

The fact of the matter is that over 22 people disappear each year from cruise ships (and only 13.8% are saved). Unfortunately, CLIA has chosen to minimize cruise passengers and crew members disappearances at sea in misleading PR releases rather than devote resources toward improving safety. Most cruise line do not see the need to invest in MOB systems which do not return a direct financial profit to the penny pinching cruise industry. Companies like MSC Cruises, unfortunately, seem to be the exception rather than the rule in implementing the life-saving technology. 

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Image credit: Security Today

Video credit: PureTech Systems

 

Another Man Overboard Marks Three Year Anniversary of Disappearance of Richard Fearnside

A reader of Cruise Law News brought to my attention that a crew member disappeared at sea from a ferry operated by Irish Ferries from Rosslare, Ireland to Pembroke, Wales yesterday. A number of newspapers have reported that a a large air and sea search was just suspended after the crew member apparently went overboard into the St. Georges channel from a ferry during the cruise of less than five hours.

The crew member has not been identified but was said to be a member of the catering staff aboard overboard crew member disappearancethe ferry.

The Western Telegraph newspaper quoted the ferry company as telling the BBC "We just don't know where he is. Technically speaking it is possible that he walked off in Pembroke . . ."

This rather clueless statement reveals a problem with many ferries throughout Great Britain (Britain, Scotland, Wales and Ireland) and Europe. They have not bothered to invest in closed circuit television on their ships despite a series of overboards over the years

I have been critical of the U.S.-based cruise industry due to the failure to install automatic man overboard systems which can immediately send a signal to the bridge of the cruise ship whenever someone goes over the railing and also can track the overboard passenger or crew member in the water via thermal imaging and radar which increases the possibility of recovering the overboard person. But many U.K. and European cruise and ferry companies have not only refused to install this state-of-the-art technology, they have refused to even install old-school CCTV systems on their ships.  

A spokesperson for the Irish Ferries company, which recently won the Best Ferry Company award by a travel media public relations firm in Ireland, defended the company saying that "this is the first time in my memory for a crewman to go missing."

It seems that the ferry PR person has a poor memory. The disappearance of people from ferries, as well as from cruise ships, is well documented and includes crew members as well as passengers.

Last week (May 21st) marked the three year anniversary of the disappearance of 30 year-old Richard Fearnside from P&O Ferries' Pride of Kent ferry as it was sailing from Calais back to Dover. His girlfriend said that he was going to the top deck to smoke a cigarette. Richard never returned. 

P&O Ferries could offer no explanation to Richard's parents, Bob and Marianne, regarding what happened to their son.  Although P&O Ferries has experienced safety problems before in the past, the ferry company had not bothered to install a single CCTV camera on the decks of its fleet of P&O ships for safety and security purposes.

P&O chose instead to install surveillance cameras only in its duty free shops on the ferries. Jewelry and alcohol, it appears, are more precious to some ferry companies than its customers.

overboard passengerRichard's mother, Marianne, wrote a letter to P&O Ferries CEO, Helen Deeble, about her son's disappearance and sought information. P&O sent a boorish response, not from Ms. Deeble, but from a public relations representative at the ferry company. The PR company man told her that installing safety cameras was a silly, impractical idea.

In 2013, I sent an open letter to Ms. Deeble about the absence of CCTV cameras on P&O ferries. There are huge cruise ships in the U.S. that have literally over 1,000 CCTV cameras installed on board. Ms. Deeble chose to ignore my letter just like she initially ignored Marianne's letter. Marianne started a petition to require P&O Ferries to install CCTV cameras on its passenger decks. The petition resonated with the public. To date, over 99,456 people have signed the petition while making insightful comments explaining why safety cameras are required. You can see the petition here.

The overboard crew member yesterday shows that little has changed with ferries in the U.K.  "We don't know where he is" is reflective of negligence, if not wanton indifference, particularly coming from a ferry called the "best ferry company."

Please take a moment, sign the petition and voice your concerns.

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Photo credit:Bottom photo credit: Canterbury Times 

HAL Testing First-Ever Thermal Imaging Man Overboard System?

Yesterday, a reader of Cruise Law News sent me a message indicating that Holland America Line (HAL) is announcing that it is testing a man overboard system. 

The reader was a recent cruise passenger aboard the HAL Nieuw Amsterdam during the first week of this month. He mentioned that the announcement was in the ship's "Today On Location" (daily program).  Another reader sent a similar message to me after cruising on the Westerdam (photo below) last week. 

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I have complained loudly and often about the refusal of the HAL Westerdamcruise industry to install automatic man overboard systems, as required by the 2010 Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act.  The cruise industry collects over $45 billion dollars a year and pays no U.S. taxes.  Plus, it's a personal issue with me, after representing clients whose loved ones (husband, daughter, son, brother . . . ) disappeared on the high seas under mysterious circumstances. 

One of my clients, Laurie Dishman, was instrumental in seeing that the Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act was passed into law. Laurie traveled to Washington D.C. over 30 times at her own expense, together with other members of the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization, to lobby Congress in support of the law. A photo of Laurie with President Obama as he signed the cruise safety bill into law is by my desk. It greets me everyday when I arrive at work, and reminds me why I am a lawyer.  

HAL has more than its fair share of passengers and crew disappearing at sea with absolutely no video or explanation indicating why or how the person ended up in the sea. I have written about such tragedies here, here, here, here and here. There are other cases. Thermal maritime technology has been around for a long time. Is HAL really the first to apply it to man overboard situations?

Just last week a young Indian seaman, who just joined the HAL this month as a cook, disappeared from the Ryndam cruise ship. His body washed ashore on a beach in Clearwater, Florida two days ago. The spectacle of the young man's body being discovered with his HAL identification card in his pocket by an early morning beachcomber is a gruesome reminder that cruise lines must be forced to comply with the Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act. 

Did the Ryndam have an automatic man overboard system that HAL is now touting to their passengers? It doesn't seem so. The ship doesn't even seem to have CCTV cameras which should have captured the young man's image as he was going overboard so that he could have been rescued. 

I suppose that it's good news that HAL is announcing that it's finally testing an automatic man overboard system. At the same time, it's distressing to hear that the HAL's man overboard system is the "first ever" such system for a cruise ship. I have heard rumors that two other cruise lines may have man overboard systems, but I have seen no proof of that and there has never been any official announcement by any other cruise line.

There are hundreds of cruise ships operated by many dozens of cruise lines in the world. I suppose a cruise line that is the first to test a man overboard system should be proud of its accomplishment. But it's a sad indictment of the rest of the cruise lines which are competing to build the biggest and best cruise ships which still have no automatic man overboard systems as required by law.

Does anyone know whether the Ryndam's daily program mentions that it has a man overboard system? Does anyone have details about the new system? 

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Roger Wollstadt Creative Commons 2.0

HAL Man Overboard System

Crew Member Disappears From Independence of the Seas: Why No Mention in the Press or Social Media?

A crew member disappeared from Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas earlier in the week.

We were first notified of the crew member's disappearance from another crew member who was concerned about the incident. Today we received confirmation that a crew member went overboard from a reliable separate and independent source. 

The missing crew member was reportedly a galley worker from India. The crew member went overboard early in the morning before the cruise ship called on its scheduled port in France. 

The ship is currently on a two week cruise, starting on August 9, 2014 from Southampton and sailing to Independence of the Seas Gibraltar, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, before returning to Southampton.

This is the third time in two months a person has gone overboard from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship without any mention of the incident in the press or on social media. 

A passenger went overboard from the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas on August 7, 2014. There were no rescue attempts by the ship. The cruise ship, like all other Royal Caribbean cruise ships, has no automatic man overboard system which could detect someone going overboard and immediately alert the bridge. The passenger was not noticed missing until a cabin attendant entered the cabin over 14 hours later. There was no mention of the incident in the press or on social media until we first mentioned the incident.

Another passenger jumped from the Splendour of the Seas on June 13, 2014. The cruise ship personnel rescued him because he was seen going overboard by other passengers and crew members. Again, there was no mention of the incident until we reported on it. The incident demonstrates that even when a person intentionally goes overboard (an act often considered to be suicidal), the cruise ship can safely rescue them if man overboard steps are immediately taken.

A passenger also recently went overboard (August 2, 2014) from the Caribbean Princess. Like the situation on the Splendor, the passenger intentionally jumped overboard but was quickly rescued because he was seen going into the water.  Again, there was no mention of the incident until cruise expert Ross Klein first mentioned it on his website

Of course, many people going overboard are not witnessed. That's why automatic man overboard systems are important. The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 requires the installation of man overboard technology. The history of the legislation indicates that it does not matter whether the person intentionally went overboard (suicidal or not), accidentally went overboard (due to alcohol, recklessness or otherwise), or was thrown overboard. Cruise ships must install the available technology.  

Why are these incidents not being mentioned in the press or discussed on social media? Some people believe that it's nobody's business. They say that if someone wants to jump overboard, they must be suicidal and there's nothing the cruise line could do or should do.  

Other people say that I'm just making these incidents up. If they can't find confirmation of the overboard on the internet after a Google search, they say I must be lying. This view permeates the group-think, cult-of-personality, lynch mob mentality on Cruise Critic message boards

In situations like the Grandeur, or more recently the Independence, the person is not discovered missing until hours and hours later, when the ship reaches port or a crew member doesn't report to work in the morning or a cabin attendant finally enters the cabin.  The ship is then over a hundred miles away. 

My thought is that it comes down to a lack of transparency. Cruise lines don't like news of their guests or employees disappearing at sea. Cruise lines sell images of magical vacations with happy, smiling customers and friendly crew members. They don't like stories of out-of-their-mind-drunk-on-cruise-booze passengers, or over-worked and despondent crew members or, God forbid, passengers or crew thrown overboard into the dark waters. They suppress the information. They don't like lawyers who point out that their entire fleet is in violation of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.

 

Interested in this issue? Consider reading Is Royal Caribbean Working Its Crew Members to Death? 

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Aztec06

Cruise Lines Continue to Ignore Cruise Safety Law's Requirement to Install Automatic Man-Overboard Systems

Grand Princess Cruise ShipIn the last week, there have been several articles about the cruise industry's refusal to comply with the requirements of the Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act to install automatic man-overboard systems.

The spirit and intent of Congress in enacting the legislation, as expressed in several hearings in Washington D.C. which I attended over the years, was to require all cruise ships to implement system to alert the bridge when a passenger went overboard so that prompt rescue efforts could be undertaken.  

Unfortunately, the vast majority of cruise lines have not invested in the available systems.

A week ago the Miami Herald first published an article entitled "Overboard Cases on Cruise Lines Often Under-Reported to Public."   

The Huffington Post followed up with an article after a woman went overboard from a Princess Cruises ship, the Grand Princess, which apparently does not have an automatic man overboard system. The security personnel on the cruise ship were required to look through images on the cruise ship's CCTV system to look for the incident in order to confirm that the passenger went over the rail. 

Yesterday, a local South Florida NBC television station, WPTV, published an article entitled "Cruise Lines Are Slow to Implement a Man Overboard Detection System for Passengers."  It also aired the video segment below.

Our firm was mentioned in all of the articles.

Today Time magazine published an article "Cruise Industry’s Mysterious ‘Man Overboard’ Problem."

The cruise lines' refusal to comply with the law results in the U.S. Coast Guard having to deploy aircraft, helicopters and cutters over a wide search grid with the expensive and often million-dollar searches being paid for by U.S. taxpayers rather than the foreign-flagged cruise ships which pay no U.S. taxes in the first place. 

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein has documented over 200 person going overboard from cruise ships since 2000.  There is no question that the technology exists to automatically and instantly detect persons going overboard. 

Supporters of the cruise industry say that the percentage of overboard passengers is small compared to the total number of people going overboard.  That may be true. But the cruise industry's non-compliance with the cruise safety law ensures that the prospects of saving those overboard passengers are slim and their deaths are likely.

Watch the video below and let us know how you think how the cruise lines can be forced to comply with the law. Join the discussion on our Facebook page.  

Photo Credit: Wikipedia (Ivan T.)