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

 

Ken Carver Honored for Cruise Safety

Merrian CarverKen Carver, Chairman of the International Cruise Victims Association (ICV), received the Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award from the U.S. Department of Justice during the annual National Crime Victims’ Service Awards ceremony on Friday in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Carver founded the ICV after his daughter disappeared from a Celebrity cruise ship during an Alaskan cruise in 2004. In 2006, he formed the ICV which is a grass roots, victim organization of families who have lost loved ones on the high seas or have been victims of sexual assaults and other crimes at sea.  

I remember when I first heard of Mr Carver. In 2005, the Arizona Central newspaper published an article titled Daughter Vanishes While on Alaskan Cruise by Robert Anglen about the disappearance of Mr. Carver's daughter, Merrian Carver, from the Celebrity Mercury cruise ship.

The facts described in the article were bad enough: a Celebrity cabin attendant noticed that Mirrian was missing early in the cruise but when he alerted his supervisors, they told him not to worry about her. In the process, Merrian's clothes and personal effects were quickly disposed of at the end of the cruise.  But the cover-up of the disappearance was even worse: neither the FBI nor local law enforcement officials were notified when there was no sighting of Merrian at the end of the cruise. Celebrity Cruises lied to Mr. Carver about its policies which required it to keep CCTV tapes for at least 30 days; when Mr. Carver asked for tapes within that period, Celebrity falsely told him that none existed. 

The cruise line gave Mr. Carver about as much attention and respect as someone complaining about losing a piece of luggage during a cruise. He told the Arizona Central: "We've learned that if something Ken Carver - International Cruise Victimshappens on a cruise, you are on your own," he says, choking back sobs. "No other parents should ever have to go through the crap we've been through. We don't know if Merrian is alive or dead. We don't know if there was an accident or murder or suicide or something else. . . . It is a very sad story."

After reading the blockbuster article about the terribly sad story, I felt compelled to read first-hand the facts alleged in a lawsuit which Mr. Carver was forced to file to try in Miami-Dade County to try and find out what happened to his daughter. I was also curious which law firm Celebrity Cruises retained to represent it in the lawsuit. 

The clerk requires anyone asking for a copy of a court pleading to fill out paperwork identifying the name and address of the person requesting the file. When I looked at the clerk's forms, I could see the names of the defense lawyers who had previously requested the file and would be involved in the case.

Coincidentally, later in the week, I bumped into these lawyers on the sixth floor of the courthouse while attending a hearing in another case. I mentioned to them: so you guys will be defending the tragic case of the father whose daughter disappeared during the cruise to Alaska?" The lawyers first denied knowing anything about the case, but when I told them that  the clerk information confirmed their involvement, one of the lawyers remarked: that's a bullshit case; we're going to have it dismissed

I'll remember this rude conversation and the defense lawyers' smug attitude for the rest of my life. I recall thinking at the time that this was not going to end well for this cruise line or their heartless defense lawyers. 

Later, during one of many television specials about Merrian's disappearance, one of the defense lawyers said to Chris Cuomo, who was working for ABC News at the time, Merrian probably committed suicide. Of course, there was absolutely no evidence of this, but this didn't stop the defense lawyer from saying it. The smear tactic was clearly the result of the nasty attitude of the cruise line lawyers and their client. But it raised the obvious question that if it was somehow true that Merrian ended her own life, why wouldn't the cruise line simply tell law enforcement and Mr. Carver and timely provide evidence supporting this conclusion? 

I'll also never forget when I first met Mr. Carver. He attended the first Congressional hearing in Washington D.C. before the U.S. Senate on December 13, 2005, following the disappearance of George Smith III from the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas. I was representing Mr Smith's wife at the hearing and was seeking information from an equally recalcitrant cruise line. Mr. Carver introduced himself at the hearing, smiled and asked me do you want to help me pass a cruise crime law? 

Quite frankly I didn't know exactly what Mr Carver was talking about. I thought to myself that any kind of law requiring the cruise line to report crimes, an issue the cruise industry always sought to suppress, was unprecedented. 

But a month later Ms. Carver created the ICV. And with the assistance of hundreds of crime victims who joined the ICV, and the convening of several more Congressional hearings addressing crimes and disappearance on cruise ships, Mr. Carver was successful in having Congress enact the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010. His proposed legislation, requiring the disclosure of missing Ken Carver ICVpassengers, the reporting of crime on cruise ships, and the requirement for ships to be equipped with rape kits and anti-retorviral medications to automatic man overboard systems, passed the Senate and House on a nearly unanimous basis. 

Mr. Carver's goals were to create transparency in crime and missing passenger reporting and install man overboard systems on cruise ships. The cruise lines fought back vigorously. The cruise industry treated Mr. Carver like a villain and essentially painted a bulls-eye on his back. The cruise lines spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying Congress to oppose Mr. Carver's proposed legislation. But ultimately Mr. Carver prevailed.

Over the past dozen years, I've seen dozens of cruise executives and cruise line defense lawyers come and go - as well as PR crisis managers and lobbyists in the cruise industry trade organization. Many have left the industry. But Mr. Carver is still standing. Cruising is safer today because of him.

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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? 

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Aztec06

L.A. Times Weighs In On Cruise Crime Cover-Up

The L.A. Times is the latest major newspaper to discuss the behind-the-scenes alteration of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.  

In Drop in Cruise Ships' Reported Crimes Raises Questions written by Dan Weikel and an accompanying editorial Cruise ship crimes: Why so hush-hush? by Paul Morrison, the L.A. Times takes a look at the reporting of cruise ship crimes after the new cruise safety law came into effect. 

Designed to require greater transparency from the cruise lines in reporting shipboard crimes, the new cruise safety law was watered down to require the disclosure of only those alleged crimes which the cruise lines reported to the FBI and the FBI then closed.

This altered language was designed to cover up the majority of crimes on cruise ships.  Before the new Cruise Ship Crime Lawcruise safety law came into effect, the FBI was known for its disinterest in investigating crimes on cruise Cruise Ship Crime - Cruise Crime Lawships. For those few crimes it investigated, the FBI solved few of them.  It also seemed to never close their files even when in truth it was not doing anything to investigate the crimes.  By altering the language of the law, the cruise lines knew that it would keep the actual number of crimes under wraps.

The cruise lines deny that they were involved in the cover-up.  And so far Congressman Kerry's office (who was instrumental in passing the new law) is pointing to the FBI and Coast Guard as requesting the change.  Here's what the L.A. Times is saying:

"The FBI and the Coast Guard had asked Congress for wording that means, under the law, that the public only is allowed to be told about the number of closed cases that are no longer being investigated.

That’s just about 180 degrees opposite what law enforcement agencies do on land: All reported crimes are public record, not just those under investigation or resolved.

See how insidious such a policy can be?

If we heard only about the LAPD’s closed cases, nobody would have heard of the Black Dahlia, and the recent murders of two USC graduate students from China might not be public knowledge. Women in South L.A. wouldn’t have been told to be on alert for the "Teardrop Rapist," who has raped nearly three dozen women in the course of about 15 years, one as recently as last month.

This kind of result is hardly what a law called the "Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act" sounds like it was meant to achieve. Turns out, the security and safety being protected here are the economic security and fiscal safety of cruise lines."

The question at this point is not whether there was a behind-the-scenes cover-up, but who in addition to the FBI and Coast Guard were engaged in the cover-up.  Were the cruise lines and their trade organization, Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), involved?  Of course, but they would never admit it. But why would the FBI alone take such steps, which as the L.A. Times concludes, were designed to protect the "economic security and fiscal safety of cruise lines" and not the passengers victimized on cruise ships?

With an industry known for its secrecy, it will take some time before the ugly truth comes out.  But it eventually will. The public will then see that the cruise lines and their CLIA representatives worked overtime with federal agencies against transparency. For the time being, they were successful in thwarting the democratic process and turning the cruise safety law into a joke. 

"Erasing Cruise Ship Crime" - Why Did the FBI Gut a Bill Requiring the Cruise Industry to Report Rapes?

Salon Magazine published a blockbuster article today about how the FBI gutted a cruise safety law designed to protect the cruising public.

The article states that the grassroots International Cruise Victims (ICV) association worked for years with Congress to pass, on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis, the Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act.  The new cruise law required the FBI to post incidents of cruise ship crimes on an internet database maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard.

But shortly before the act passed into law, the FBI inserted language which watered the reporting requirements down to the point that the database is worthless.  Before the law passed, each year hundreds of rapes and violent crimes on cruise ships were reported by the cruise lines.  Now, only a handful are reported.  For some quarters, nothing is reported.  

You can see the bogus database here

Was the cruise industry behind the changes to the cruise safety bill?

The article points to the incestuous relationship between the FBI and the cruise lines which hire former FBI officials to maintain a cozy relationship with the FBI.  Although the new cruise safety law was designed to force greater transparency from the cruise lines, the FBI's manipulation of the bill results International Cruise Victims - ICV - Cruise Crime Lawin just the the opposite result - greater secrecy and opportunity for the cruise lines to cover the crimes up.

The bottom line? The cruising public is kept from reviewing the true crime statistics.  And the cruise lines and some travel agents use the bogus database to advertise that cruising is safe! 

The article quotes ICV CEO Ken Carver, President Jamie Barnett, (photo, in Washington D.C.) and board member (and our client) Laurie Dishman.

Cruise expert Ross Klein, who has testified before Congress several times, is also mentioned.

The article refers to a couple of articles from Cruise Law News as well.

The behind-the-scenes maneuvering by the FBI and its friends frustrated the democratic process and the hard work of the ICV organization.  But one thing is certain, the ICV under the leadership of CEO Carver and President Barnett will keeping working until the original language is back in the cruise safety law.

 

Photo credit:  Ken Carver and Jamie Barnett - by Jim Walker