99,900 Reasons for P&O Ferries to Install CCTV Cameras

Richard FearnsideIt was a dark night four and one-half years ago when 30 year-old Richard Fearnside disappeared 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 didn't sound an alarm until the ferry returned to port.

P&O Ferries could offer no explanation to Richard's parents, Bob and Marianne, regarding what happened to their son while the P&O ferry was cruising in the middle of the English Channel. Although other passengers and crew had disappeared from P&O ferries under mysterious circumstances 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 P&O than its customers.

Richard'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 subordinate at the ferry company. The PR company man told her that installing safety cameras was a silly, impractical idea.

I sent an open letter to Ms. Deeble about the absence of CCTV cameras on the P&O ferries. Ms. Deeble chose to ignore my letter just like she initially ignored Marianne's letter.  

Marianne and Bob started a petition titled Install CCTV Cameras on Passenger Decks.  The public is asked to read the articles posted at that site and sign the petition for P&O to install CCTV cameras. Supporters Marianne and Bob Fearnsidecan also leave a reason why they are signing the petition. There are now over 99,900 signatures and over 99,900 reasons for doing so. Take a minute and read the reasons expressed on the change.org page. A few reasons to consider: 

  • If this can save one life it is worth any cost.
  • This is a sad end for a mother and father to never know what happened when something so simple may have helped to give some answers.
  • Ridiculous that CCTV watches over Duty Free Shop, but ignores passenger decks and safety.
  • It's imperative these cameras are installed there as been to many unexplained loss of people at sea.

Carnival Corporation named Ms. Deeble to it's Board of Directors last year. Carnival's fleet of cruise ships are largely not in compliance with the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act which required the installation of automatic man overboard systems whenever feasible. Unfortunately, she is not a director who will improve safety for Carnival's passengers. And being on the Carnival board will not lead her to take overdue action for passenger safety on  P&O Ferries.

But Richard's parents have continued their efforts, which are gaining traction. Representative James Carver told the parliament in Europe “(Richard's) name is added to an increasing list of missing ferry and cruise ship passengers, and I am humbled to be able to support his family’s campaign for mandatory CCTV and thermal imaging cameras on all ferries operating from British and EU ports," according to Kent Online

Let's move the petition past 100,000 supporters. Please sign here.  

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The petition has reached 100,001 signatures!

Photo credit: Marianne and Bob Fearnside

Deadly Cruise and Ferry Air Emissions Debate: U.K. Shipping Companies Deceive the Public

New air emission regulations will shortly affect the U.K. shipping industry. Toxic sulfur emissions must be reduced to 0.1 per cent, from a current high of around 4.5 per cent, by January 1, 2015. 

The reason for the new regulations is that high sulfur fuel contributes substantially to emphysema, lung disease, congestive heart failure, birth defects, and premature deaths. It is a topic we have written about regularly.

The health risks posed by the cruise industry's use of high sulfur fuels are enormous. I published an article years ago called Bunker Fuel - Nasty Tar Sludge! which explains how bunker fuel - which is P&O Ferries a tar-like substance left as the residue of the refinery process - is the nastiest and most toxic fuel on planet earth. It is unconscionable to burn it.

But bunker fuel is the cornerstone of the shipping industry. Cruise and ferry companies burn it all of the time. Why? Because it is dirt cheap and the shipping industry profit handsomely by using it.

The new air emissions standards will cut into the cruise and ferry lines' profits. The fuel is, of course, more expensive. The public will need to pay higher fares.   

The shipping executives are continuing to try and delay the implementation of the new health regulations. We have been writing about the need for new regulations ever since I started this blog five years ago.

Over the years, the cruise industry has done just about everything possible to avoid regulation and continue to burn high sulfur fuel.  In the U.S., the industry sued the Environmental Protection Agency to keep burning dirty fuel. It has initiated scare tactics saying that jobs in the maritime sector will be lost and passengers will face astronomical fares. 

In the U.K. and Europe, the executives at the major ferry lines - P&O Ferries, DFDS and MyFerryLink - are all facing the same challenge to maintain profits. But their approaches are all different.  

According to the Dover Express, P&O claims that the clean fuel costs will now soar to £30 million a year and it has no choice but to stick it to their passengers.

But the Danish ferry operator, DFDS, has invested £80 million in "scrubbers" to improve the air quality of its ship emissions.

P&O on the other hand has joined in a campaign by the UK Chamber of Shipping to scare the public. Helen Deeble, CEO of P&O, joined in an open letter posted in the U.K. Telegraph, claiming that the low sulfur is prohibitively expensive, will lead to pay-offs in the shipping sector, and thousands of more trucks will clog the roads.

Deeble and the U.K. shipping and port CEO's claim that shipping is responsible for 90 per cent of world trade but emits just 2.7 per cent of global CO2. They cite no authority for this claim. it is a bold face lie. 

The U.S. EPA has concluded that a single cruise ship will emit the same amount of sulfur dioxide as 13,100,000 (million) cars and as much soot as over 1,000,000 (million) cars.

The new quality regulations will not suddenly cause ferries to be scrapped and the roads in the U.K. to become clogged with lorries spewing smoke and smog over the pastoral landscape of Great Britain. These claims are part of the cruise and ferry companies' scare tactics.

We have seen this irresponsibility from the U.K. ferry operators before.  P&O Ferries won't invest a pence into CCTV camera technology even though it has a problem with passengers and crew disappearing from the open decks of its ships. P&O and other U.K. operators have had a long time to implement scrubber technology to protect the health of their passengers and crew and the general public. But they have persistently refused to do so.  

Faced with the January 1st deadline, the shipping industry in the U.K. is crying wolf.

 

Photo Credit:  Dover  Express

P&O Ferries Ignores Widespread Requests to Install Safety Cameras on its Ferries

PO Ferries Pride of KentLast week I wrote an article entitled Top 10 Most Outrageous Cruise Ship Stories of 2013. There were a lot out outrageous moments in the maritime community last year. I had to work hard to whittle my initial list of outrageous cruise stories down to just ten.  

One outrageous story which I had to cut from the list at the last moment was the story of the disappearance of Richard Fearnside from the P&O Ferries Pride of Kent. Earlier this year, Richard was a passenger on the P&O ferry sailing with his girlfriend back to the U.K. from Calais when he went to the top deck to have a smoke. He disappeared.

P&O could offer no explanation regarding what happened to its fare-paying guest. Why? Because the P&O ferry did not have an automatic man overboard system to detect persons going overboard. Incredibly, it did not even have a single CCTV camera on the exterior, top passenger deck.

Mysteries like this are unacceptable in a caring and civilized world. But they are not rare.

Two days ago, a Canadian man disappeared from Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas as the cruise ship sailed on a Caribbean cruise to the Cayman Islands. The cruise ship had no man overboard system and no CCTV cameras which captured what happened to the cruise line passenger.

Just eleven days earlier, an Australian man fell from from Royal Carribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas. Again the ship had no man overboard system and no surveillance camera recorded how or why the passenger went overboard.  

P&O has also experienced a rash of overboards where the ferry line could offer no explanation what happened. 

Richard Fearnside's mother, Marianne, wrote to the CEO of P&O, Helen Deeble, and inquired why there were no cameras on the ferry. Her letter was sloughed off to a PR man who rudely told her to take a hike. Marianne made the mistake of pointing out that P&O has CCTV cameras in its duty free shops to protect the booze on its ship, so why no CCTV on exterior passenger decks?

The same problem exists with larger cruise lines like Royal Caribbean which monitors CCTV cameras in its casino to protect its casino chips. Companies like P&O and Royal Caribbean don't want to see their booze or casino money disappear. But they don't feel the same way about their passengers.     

Richard Fearnside Marianne Fearnside Marianne Fearnsie recently started a petition to require P&O Ferries to install CCTV cameras on its passenger decks. To date, over 90,000 people have signed the petition while making insightful comments explaining why surveillance camera are required.

I sent an open letter to P&O CEO Ms. Deeble, inquiring why something as simple and inexpensive as CCTV cameras have not been installed, which you can read here.

Unfortunately, P&O ignored my little letter. But P&O cannot ignore Marianne Fearnside's growing petition.

Victim advocate organizations and the media have taken notice of the Fearnside family's plight. Unexplained disappearances in the cruise industry and on P&O ships will surely continue in 2014. And just as surely, every time someone goes overboard from a P&O ferry, the advocacy groups, the media and this blog will protest loudly why P&O has done nothing about this problem.      

 

Sign the petition here.

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An Open Letter to P&O Ferries CEO Helen Deeble: Do the Right Thing

Dear Ms. Deeble.

Cruise and ferry executives have difficult jobs, I suspect. You have to effectively deal with labor disputes, increasing fuel costs, and price wars with your competitors in an increasing difficult economy. What a headache.

In addition to managing the financial pluses and minuses of your businesses, cruise executives like you also have to timely and effectively respond to public criticism when things go wrong on the high seas. But many maritime CEO's, who are well educated and highly experienced in business and Helen Deeble P&O Ferriesaccounting matters, suffer from an inability to manage their company's reputation when they face public scrutiny.

I know that you have faced tough economic times before while running your ferry business. At this time last year, you were finishing a major evaluation of P&O operations which addressed declining revenue and increasing costs facing your staff over 4,000 employees. P&O encountered stiff competition from rival ferry lines Danish-based DFDS Seaways and France's MyFerryLink as well as the underwater train operators to France, in addition to generally tough economic times across Europe.  

It must be hard to be responsible for over 4,000 employees who depend on P&O to support their families. After prior evaluations over the years, I know that you had to axe thousands of ferry employees to maintain profitability for the corporation. It's doubly hard when a U.K. company like yours goes head-to-head with well run companies like DFDS Seaways (those Danish are hard working and efficient people, aren't they?)

Your other competitor, France's Groupe Eurotunnel, has not only the underwater train system but they enjoy lower priced ferry fares with their MyFerryLink brand. This upsets me. I'm a fan of Winston Churchill and the U.K. battle against Germany from 1939 to 1945 still inspires me. So P&O having to compete with the French, who would be part of Germany but for the P&O FerriesU.K.'s sacrifice and courage, seems hardly fair. I am rooting for your U.K. ferry line to beat its overseas rivals. But I suppose that's just my biased perspective.

Added to your difficult financial equation, I know that P&O received embarrassing treatment by the press in the U.K. last year after an internal company report concluded that exhausted cross-Channel P&O ferry workers suffering from sleep deprivation and stress presented a danger to their ships and passengers. The information from your internal report, based on a survey of 500 of your ferry workers measuring their hours of work, watch-keeping and fatigue, was leaked by a worker to a newspaper which published "Passengers at Risk Because of Tired Ferry Workers." Sometimes its hard to keep these type of things secret with all of the newspapers looking for a scoop. 

I am also not insensitive to the recent bad news when the British Competition Appellate Tribunal granted relief earlier this month to Groupe Eurotunnel, which had been hit with an antitrust ruling stopping it from also operating its MyFerryLink ferries between Calais and Dover. You got a ruling knocking them out of your ports for a while. Good for you! But the ruling was overturned which brings stiffer competition to P&O.

But the stiffest challenge you face is growing protests that your company treated the parents of ferry passenger Richard Fearnside shabbily after he disappeared from the Pride of Kent earlier this year. I was disturbed to read that your ferry lacked any closed circuit television cameras (CCTV) on its exterior passenger decks. Money's tight I know, but no CCTV? And I was even more disturbed and angered when Richard's mother, Marianne Fearnside, raised this issue of why-no-CCTV cameras in this day and age in a letter to you. You kicked the letter downstairs to your PR fellow Chris Laming, who rudely rebuffed her and, incredibly, dismissed her proposal as "not practical."

You may recall that this dismissive attitude has plagued P&O in the past. Over 190 passengers and crew were killed in 1987 when the ferry line considered it was not practical to install CCTV cameras or alarms to determine whether the Herald of Free Enterprise bow doors were closed. The ferry capsized after a crew member responsible for closing the doors was exhausted and fell asleep (a problem which continues today). I know you were not with P&O / Townsend Thoresen back then, but as a well educated professional I am sure you are more Richard Fearnside - Marianne Fearnsidefamiliar with this disaster than I. You understand that when you forget history, it repeats itself. 

I wonder what you think of Marianne Fearnside. I really do. You're a mother of two boys, now men. You must love your children deeply. You must have thought, at least once, what if one of my boys disappeared from one of my ferries at sea, at night, into the dark and cold water, alone. How would I feel?  What would I do? You must have thought of these things, right?

I can tell you what I, as a father of two boys, think of Marianne. Unlike prior P&O victims understandably crippled by the loss of loved ones, Marianne Fearnside is a brave soul and a tough lady. She will not let her son's voice fade away. It's not easy, but she has taken her heart-felt campaign to improve safety on P&O ferries to the public. Initially dumbfounded and paralyzed, she has been vocal and full of action of late. She has found an audience and her cause has resonated with the public. Over 85,000 people have signed her petition to require P&O to install CCTV on its ferries. (This is a modest request considering that cruise ships based in the U.S. not only have hundreds of CCTV cameras but are required by U.S. law to install state-of-the-art automatic man overboard systems).         

It's only a matter of time before a major newspaper in the U.K. digs into this appalling story and P&O's tattered image is further sullied. No one wants to see a home-town U.K. company take such a hit. You have hard working staff who deserve better than go down with a ship sinking in the eyes of the public. But even former P&O ferry workers have signed Marianne's petition and proclaimed to the public that it is unreasonable and irresponsible for P&O to refuse to install CCTV. They are saying George Smith - Royal Caribbeanwhat many of your tired staff are probably thinking.

Let me quickly tell you a few lessons from cruise CEO's here in Miami, the cruise capital of the world, who have failed miserably handling public relations disasters. There are lessons to be learned.  

Cruise passenger George Smith disappeared in 2005 during his honeymoon cruise. When a passenger photographed a blood soaked awning on the ship, the story went viral. Royal Caribbean fought a war on the cable news for a year claiming that Mr. Smith was drunk and it could not have prevented his death. The cruise ship had no CCTV cameras or overboard systems. We represented Mr. Smith's widow and appeared on FOX News, MSNBC, CNN and the major networks bickering with the cruise line's PR representatives, safety managers and even the Chairman Richard Fain on Larry King Live. A Congressional hearing was convened about cruise passenger safety, followed by six other Congressional hearings in the House and Senate which continue today. It turned out that Mr. Smith didn't just fall overboard as the cruise line said. He was likely thrown overboard by other Royal Caribbean passengers. The cruise lines were subsequently ordered not only to install CCTV cameras but automatic man overboard systems on all of their cruise ships, but not before the Miami-based cruise lines tarnished their image. 

Another lesson comes from the debacle of Carnival CEO Micky Arison who, by all accounts, acted callously after the Carnival owned Costa Concordia capsized off the coast of Italy and killed 32 passengers and crew and terrorized thousands. He was roundly criticized for his apparent indifference Costa Concordia to the disaster involving one of his over 100 cruise ships. But he didn't seem to care. He continued to focus just on profits and losses (and his Miami Heat basketball team) and not the human suffering created by his irresponsible captain. As additional Carnival disasters and embarrassments (like the infamous Carnival poop cruise) unfolded, Arison stayed indifferent to the plight of his suffering cruise line guests. His once proud and popular cruise company became the laughing stock of late night comedians. When the Carnival earnings and stock flattened out, his board removed him as CEO. The new CEO has spent hundreds of million of dollars in safety improvements to the ships in the neglected fleet. 

How will you respond to the PR nightmare facing your company?  The P&O website is filled with thousands of well reasoned and succinctly written criticisms about the line's perceived insensitivity and lack of ethics. Continuing to slough the matter off to your PR team will only make matters worse.

Now one other cruise CEO story to tell. Here's a hint how to turn things around.

When the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Sea caught on fire earlier this year, the passengers faced a raging 2 hour fire after the automatic fire suppression system failed to operate. Royal Caribbean faced a major PR problem, especially coming on the heels of other well publicized Carnival mishaps. But unlike Carnival's CEO Arison, Royal Caribbean's CEO Adam Goldstein jumped on a jet to the Adam Goldstein Cruise Fire Bahamas where he quickly met up with the burned ship. I'm not a fan of Mr. Goldstein, but this time he was a man of action with the right attitude.  He was photographed inspecting the scene of the fire and discussing the fire while drinking iced tea with the passengers. He apologized profusely and promised improvements to his ships. The public quickly forgave the cruise line for the fire, and praised the cruise CEO for his quick action, transparency and concern for his guests.

The press is coming after you Ms. Deeble. The public outrage is growing. The nation is learning that other passengers and crew have disappeared off your ships. The time for mysteries is over. The Fearnside petition will shortly have over 100,000 signatures. Legislation requiring CCTV is inevitable.

How are you going to respond. Will you even respond?

My suggestion?   

You are the past President of the U.K. Chamber of Shipping. You're highly respected and influential in your industry. Others will follow your lead. 

Its time to get out from behind the desk. Put your financial papers aside for a moment. Drive the short distance over to Marianne's house. You both live in Kent. Invite yourself in for a cup of tea. No lawyers, just you and Marianne. Make a New Year's promise to her to install CCTV on your ferries. Future passengers and your own crew deserve it. And bring your photographers too. The public will love the image of you doing the right thing, and saving your company in the process. 

Respectfully,

Jim Walker