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

 

Thank You President Obama!

In 2010, the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) became law. The statute required, for the first time, cruise lines to disclose incidents of missing passengers, sexual assaults and other shipboard crimes to the American public.

The legislation was the result of the dedication and hard work of our client and good friend, Laurie Dishman (who traveled to Washington D.C. over 30 times), her Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA), as well as other members of Congress, including Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX)(all photographed below).

A special thank you, of course, goes to former President Obama for signing the ground-breaking legislation into law. He warmly greeted Laurie in his office and acknowledged the brave and special person that she is, while demonstrating great generosity of spirit. President Barack Obama

Recent Lewd and Lascivious Conduct on HAL Cruise Line Show Shortcomings of CVSSA Crime Reporting

Last fall, the Arizona Republic reported that cruise travelers for the first time can see what crimes are being reported aboard cruise ships operating in U.S. ports.

The newspaper commented on improvements once the Department of Transportation replaced the Coast Guard as the agency responsible for reporting crimes on cruise ships leaving US. ports. Consumers previously needed to check the websites of each cruise line to try and find out what crimes occur on which cruise line. Carnival Corporation bundled the crimes of its brands (Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, and Princess Cruises)  together under one name, HAl Veendamso that it was impossible for consumers to identify on which cruise line the reported crimes occurred.

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act ("CVSSA") of 2010  was supposed to provide the public with reports of certain crimes aboard cruise ships, such as deaths, sexual assaults, thefts and missing-person reports.

But the cruise-friendly agencies responsible for disclosing the crime statistics requested changes to the wording in the CVSSA which rendered crime-reporting provisions useless.

Language added before its passage altered the CVSSA bill so that only crimes "no longer under investigation by the FBI" were reported on the website. An Arizona Republic investigation in 2012 revealed the language was altered at the request of the FBI and the Coast Guard, apparently with pressure from the cruise industry

The problem is that the FBI often refused to open files when crime occurred on cruise ships or, when it did, the FBI often kept its files open long after it has decided not to investigate the case. So any crime that the FBI didn't investigate - or when it technically kept its investigation files open - was not included in the Coast Guard database.

The language of the statute was changed which resulted in far more crimes, particularly sexual assaults, being disclosed to to the public by the DOT. In the first six months of 2016 far more sexual assaults were disclosed (39) than during the same period in 2015 (6) when the reporting was disclosed on the Coast guard portal.  

You can see the DOT's portal here.

But a major problem remains.  The cruise lines are the one which determine whether an incident constitutes "sexual assault." Many cases of sexual molestation of minors are mis-classified as "groping" or as "inappropriate touching," neither of which is a crime under the CVSSA .

The same is true regarding the sexual offense which the HAL waiter was arrested for on the Holland America Line Veendam last week. The CVSSA does not include "lewd and lascivious" conduct with a child as a reportable offense. 

Cruise expert Professor Dr. Ross Klein, who has testified regarding the issue of crime on cruise ships Gede Sukrantara, HAL Veendambefore the U.S. House of Representative and the U.S. Senate, pointed this problem out on his website last October. Dr. Klein has reviewed hundreds of incident reports submitted by cruise lines and has observed a tendency for cruise lines to report incidents of sexual assault as either "sexual contact" (which is not reportable under the CVSSA) or as "molestation" or as "groping" or "inappropriate touching" or "lewd and lascivious conduct" (none of which are reportable pursuant to the specific language of the statute). 

The cruise victim's group, the International Cruise Victims, has tried to introduce legislation requiring the cruise industry to disclose when children are victims of crime.  Several years ago, Dr. Klein determined that between 17.5 and 30 percent of the sexual assault victims on cruise ships are minors. The cruise industry vigorously opposed the legislation and refuses to disclose when children are sexually assaulted on their ships.

The crime that occurred on the Veendam when a 26 year old Indonesian HAL waiter (photo right) locked himself in a bathroom on the cruise ship and engaged in oral sex with a fifteen year old girl is exactly the type of sexual misconduct that families need to understand happens all too often on family cruise vacations, no matter how hard the cruise industry tries to parse words to keep it secret.

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Photo credit: Top: Fletcher6 - CC BY 3.0, commons / wikimedia. ; bottom: Gede Sukrantara Facebook page.

Royal Caribbean's Misplaced Priorities: Fast Internet, Virtual Balconies But No Automatic Man-Overboard Systems

Today I read an article by a popular cruise blogger that Royal Caribbean was on track to deliver a fast land-based internet experience to its guests.

The article went on to say that "cruise lines are working overtime, trying to enable passenger use of their electronic devices at sea just as they might at home."

I suppose this is of some interest to the cruising public, knowing that they can surf the internet on the high seas just as fast as they can at home.

Virtual Balcony Another article which caught my eye was in Wired magazine entitled "Cruise Ship’s 80-Inch ‘Virtual Balconies’ Livestream the High Seas." 

The article explains that on Royal Caribbean' Navigator of the Seas, the cruise line has installed, in 81 interior staterooms, floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall screens which display a live feed of the bow and stern video cameras. Those passengers "stuck" in interior, view-less cabins will be able to enjoy clear, beautiful images of the Caribbean waters.

The article explains that the high-tech video gear is marine compliant and can handle all of the sun, heat, salt, and water "that comes with being at sea." Further, "fiber-optic cable carries the video to a server, then to a set-top box that decodes and processes the video before it’s displayed on the screen." 

Consultants from MIT and Harvard were involved in the project in order to bring the best technology to the cruise ship. 

All of this technology is coming from the cruise line which prides itself in "Delivering the Wow!" to its guests. When it comes to designing cruise ships which incorporate the newest entertainment gadgets for its passengers to enjoy, Royal Caribbean is the best. This is the cruise line which will introduce the Quantum of the Seas later this year, filled with all types of technological marvels like simulated sky-diving and a gee-whiz" Jetson-family-like futuristic mechanical arm that magically transports passengers high above the ocean in a glass capsule called the "North Star."

But one thing which the Quantum of the Seas will be lacking is an automatic man-overboard (MOB) system which will signal the bridge when a passenger or crew member goes over the rails and into the sea. Such devices were required by the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act. But Royal Caribbean, like most cruise lines, has not bothered to install such systems onto its fleet of cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean has experienced the most passengers and crew going overboard in the last two months. In all cases there is no mention of the required MOB systems. In some cases its does not even appear that the ships were even equipped with a sufficient number of surveillance systems to determine how and why the guest or employee disappeared from the ship.

The cruise industry claims that technology doesn't exist to detect when people go overboard. Cruise lines also claim that salt deposits from the sea spray can obscure the view of the MOB cameras.

North StarWhen it comes to why it has not complied with the life-saving safety law, Royal Caribbean has a boat load of excuses. It is still using old school, outdated technology. It can't even figure out how to keep an exterior camera clean.

But when it comes to the technology for its gadgets like cameras for its live-streaming, virtual balconies, it involved experts from MIT and Harvard to design the best cameras for the marine environment.    

The difference is that Royal Caribbean can generate significant profits by selling higher speed internet and charging more for an interior cabin if it has a virtual balcony. Royal Caribbean will charge a premium fare for the Quantum of the Seas with its "North Star" ride in the sky.  

But a CVSSA-compliant MOB system creates more costs and no profits. You will hear nothing about Royal Caribbean involving experts from MIT and Harvard to create "gee-whiz" safety devices. Yes, crew members and passengers will continue to disappear at sea but, in the cruise line's view, they are both easily replaceable.

 

Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean / Royal Caribbean via Wired

Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report Reveals Cruise Industry Failed to Implement Key Provisions of Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act (CVSSA) of 2010

Adventure of the SeasThe Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently issued a report regarding whether the cruise industry has implemented the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) of 2010. 

I have pointed out that the last several man overboard cases indicate that the cruise industry refuses to install the necessary man overboard technology. It's disgraceful that this is the situation in 2014.  

The GAO report indicates the cruise lines have still failed to implement four key provisions of the CVSSA:

  • (1) man overboard technology, which detects and alerts the crew to a person falling overboard;
  • (2) video recording requirements, which are to assist in documenting crimes on the vessel and in providing evidence for the prosecution of such crimes;
  • (3) acoustical hailing and warning devices, which provide communication capability around a vessel operating in high-risk waters; and
  • (4) certification of training providers that teach the CVSSA training course on crime prevention, detection, evidence preservation, and reporting.

The GAO report states that five companies have indicated that they have effective man overboard technology in order for the cruise lines to comply with the CVSSA. 

However, the cruise lines and its trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), claim that the man overboard technology does not exist. CLIA further informed the GAO that that man overboard technology is not reliable because of the movement of the ship, weather, sun glare, and "lens encrustation caused by saltwater." 

These seems like flimsy excuses to me.  We reported before on systems that exist and are readily Man Overboardavailable. Read here and here. If salt water on the lens of a camera is really a problem, then have a crew member wipe it off! 

The GAO met with five cruise lines about the non-compliance issue. Four of the five cruise lines claim that they are testing different technologies on their ships. One of the lines, which the GAO report did not identify, is not even bothering to conduct any testing. 

Some of the cruise lines complained about false readings. One unidentified cruise line representative complained that a false positive "could result in increased operational costs such as conducting unnecessary searches or disrupting an itinerary."

This cruise line argued that if the "technology failed to detect a passenger who had gone overboard, and as a result the vessel failed to conduct a search for that person, this type of error could expose the cruise line to costly litigation."

The cruise lines all complained about having to "invest significant amounts of money in man overboard technology." 

In my assessment, it seems like the cruise lines are more interested in avoiding costs rather than saving lives. 

The cruise industry's excuses are simply amazing. As matters now stand, there are no man overboard readings at all. Both passengers and crew members continue to go overboard undetected in most cases. This causes long delays before the Coast Guard is notified and vastly increases the area the Coast Guard helicopters and airplanes have to search. Some delayed searches cost the Coast Guard a million dollars.  Who pays for these costs? U.S. taxpayers, not the foreign flagged cruise lines which do not even pay any federal income taxes anyway.   

One other interesting issue which the GAO report revealed is that the cruise lines expressed frustration with the delay of the Coast Guard in making recommendations about suitable overboard systems and not communicating with the cruise lines. 

However, the cruise lines are not required to wait for the Coast Guard to design the systems for them. Our federal government may be skilled in quickly medevacing ill passengers on the high seas, but it is dreadfully slow in passing maritime laws that affect the cruise lines and enforcing them. The cruise industry has been in violation of the law for years. Blaming the Coast Guard is not an excuse.  

My recommendation for compelling the cruise lines to install the required systems is to make it in their best economic interests to do so.

All cruise lines not compliant with the CVSSA should to be 100% responsible for all Coast Guard costs when the cruise lines waste hours before notifying them of a person who has gone overboard. Installing a system which saves human lives is far more important than a $35 billion non-tax-paying foreign industry avoiding costs associated with a false positive once in a while. It's also far cheaper to U.S. taxpayers than having, as matter now stand, no system at all. 

 

Art Credit: CruelKev2's blog

Photo: ABC News

Cruise Critic's Man Overboard Article Misses the Boat

Yesterday the on-line cruise community Cruise Critic published an article "Man Overboards: Questions and Answers."

We previously criticized Cruise Critic after it deleted comments from its message boards about the passenger who recently went overboard from the HAL Veendam. We have also been critical of the cruise lines for not investing in installing the man overboard systems

The man overboard systems came to the public's attention because a non-profit victim's group, the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization, lobbied Congress to require the installation of these systems. The cruise industry vigorously fought against the requirement. Cruise lines argued that the systems were not needed.

The ICV attended a series of hearings before the Senate and the House Cruise Criticfrom 2005 through 2009 culminating in the passage of the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act (CVSSA) of 2010. This law required all cruise ships, effective January 2012, to install detection systems which immediately notify the bridge when a person goes overboard. 

Regarding its article yesterday, Cruise Critic did not interview anyone at the ICV, or independent expert engineers, or the companies which have developed man overboard systems. or Coast Guard officials, or any critics of the cruise industry.

Instead, Cruise Critic interviewed only one cruise line, Carnival, and the cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  Cruise Critic did not even mention the CVSSA in the article.

The bottom line is that the cruise industry is in violation of the CVSSA. It has broken the law, and continues to break the law every time a cruise ship - without a man overboard system - sails. Cruise Critic interviewed only the law-breaking cruise industry. Unfortunately, this is the style of the Expedia-owned, cruise friendly cruise site.

In Cruise Critic's article, the cruise industry claims that man overboard systems are not reliable and that the cruise lines are working hard to develop a system. Hogwash. The technology is available, reliable and ready to be installed. The cruise industry is just dragging its feet  

Carnival says that it has been trying to development a system since 2006. That seems like nonsense too.  In 2006, Carnival and CLIA were doing everything possible to convince Congress that the systems were not necessary. They were busy then spending millions lobbying Congress to kill the man overboard legislation, not to develop a man overboard system.   

Cruise Critic also gives an explanation why its doesn't "cover" all cases of overboard passengers. I could care less whether it does or not.  But we were not talking about articles, but comments left by cruisers. I was critical of Cruise Critic's decision to censor its message boards and to delete the innocuous comments of its members who decided to mention the overboard case which the cruise line wanted to keep secret.

Miami Herald Looks at Cruise Ship Overboards

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

What jumps out from the article is that the cruise industry, as a whole, fundamentally still lacks transparency regarding the issue of cruise ship passengers and crew members going overboard on the high seas.

Miami Herald reporter Hannah B. Sampson was seemingly unable to obtain a straight answer from the cruise lines or the cruise trade organization regarding exactly which cruise ships have implemented automatic man overboard systems with an alarm to the bridge which comply with the 2010 Cruise Cruise Safety and Security ActVessel Safety & Security Act (CVSSA), and which cruise ships have no systems or "passive" system which don't notify the bridge and are in violation of the law. The closest the reporter could come to this basic issue is obtaining a quote from a company which installs both systems stating that “a significant number” of cruise ship just use passive technology.

The bottom line inquiry is whether the cruise industry is in compliance with the CVSSA. My assessment is that the industry is largely not in compliance at all.

A Carnival spokesperson told the Miami Herald that the industry needs to be transparent and showcase the steps it takes to provide the public with the "safest and highest quality vacation experience available." But Carnival won't state what basic steps it has taken to comply with the CVSSA, 

Does a single one of the 100 plus cruise ships owned by Carnival Corporation and sailing under the flags of Costa, Cunard, Holland America Line, P&O or Princess have an alarm system which provides real time data to the bridge such that emergency rescue measures can be immediately undertaken? I have seen no evidence of that. Cruise lines like Princess are still reviewing CCTV images to try to figure out what happened. Meanwhile, the ship continues to sail on and the prospect of a successful rescue diminishes.

The proof of compliance or not, of course, is simple enough. Has a single cruise passenger or crew member been successfully rescued after an automatic system has detected a person going overboard?  I have seen no evidence of that either.

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein, who was quoted in the Miami Herald article, has documented 57 overboards from 2011 to the present since the 2010 safety law was enacted. Not one automatic overboard system has been documented to be in use and resulted in a saved life.

Take, for example, the latest passenger going overboard from a cruise ship a few days ago. A woman in her thirties went overboard the Grand Princess north of Hawaii. There were no announcements that a CVSSA-compliance automatic system detected and immediately signaled the woman going overboard. Instead, the cruise line announced that they were able to verify another passenger's account only after reviewing images discovered during an after-the-fact review of closed circuit television (CCTV) images.

The public relations team at Princess Cruises were quick to announce that the woman "intentionally" went overboard. The media was equally quick in extrapolating that comment to mean that the woman intended to end her life via suicide. Cruise fan sites like Cruise Critic were quick to bash the woman as selfish and responsible for ruining everyone else's cruise. Lost in the blame-the-passenger PR efforts were any discussions whether Princess was in violation of the CVSSA and whether the woman could have been rescued if the cruise line had been in compliance with the cruise safety law.

It is irrelevant under the CVSSA whether the person going overboard jumped to end their life, or jumped as a plea for help, or jumped in a state of confusion while intoxicated (we received at least one comment, to our article. that the woman may have been drinking heavily), or fell, or was pushed. This is a point I mentioned recently in an article in the Huffington Post.

Three years after the CVVSA the cruise lines find themselves substantially in violation of the cruise safety law. They are still playing the game of blaming "suicidal" passengers rather than admitting that they have not invested into the new overboard technologies to try and save everyone who goes overboard for any reason.  Unfortunately, there will be no widespread compliance with the CVSSA until substantial penalties are levied against non-compliant cruise lines.

Late discovery of a missing crew member or passenger results in massive search and rescue efforts by the U.S. Coast Guard costing literally a million dollars. Cruise ships not in compliance with the CVSSA should be required to reimburse the U.S. taxpayers who are paying for the unsuccessful rescue attempts. The costs associated with one search and rescue effort would pay for an automatic system.

Yesterday a reader of Cruise Law News made these comments about the Princess passenger going overboard:

Obviously the penalties for not complying with the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act are not sufficient. If the captain of the ship and the directors of the cruise line faced manslaughter charges every time someone disappeared from a non-compliant ship, the compliance rate would rapidly approach 100%

The cruise line should also be liable for search costs, and should be required to have a suitable rescue boat/vehicle ready to go at all times. Considering the size of some of these ships, they should probably be required to have several rescue boats ready, guaranteeing a mandatory maximum response time to the overboard person.

Particularly where jurisdictional issues could prevent prosecutions, non-compliant vessels could be prohibited from operating in US waters, or the waters of any other country with similar legislation, and the promotion and sale of cruises on these vessels could also be prohibited within these countries. Whilst there would be loopholes, such as internet sales, the financial impact on these vessels should be enough to ensure rapid compliance.