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

 

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

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein reports that a cruise passenger has gone overboard from the Carnival Glory. According to his CruiseJunkie website:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 12 2015 Update: Statement by Senator Richard Blmenthal:

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

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

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

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

March 12 2015 Update: A news station WDBJ 7 (CBS) in Virginia interviewed me regarding this overboard. I comment about regarding Carnival's lack of an automatic mad overboard system on the ship: 

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Photo Credit: Jordandkatz / Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

Celebrity Constellation Passenger Missing - Where's the Man Overboard System?

Constellation Cruise ShipKey West newspaper The Citizen reports that a passenger from a cruise ship sailing to Key West yesterday has disappeared from the ship.  

The newspaper writes that "the Coast Guard is continuing to search for a man who fell off a Celebrity cruise ship bound for Key West. The 66-year-old man was last spotted by a video camera aboard the Celebrity cruise ship Constellation at about 3:30 a.m. Sunday, 23 miles south of Summerland Key in the Atlantic Ocean, according to Coast Guard Lt. Peter Bermont."

The newspaper quotes the Coast Guard lieutenant stating that "we don't know the circumstance of how the man fell overboard. He was not on the vessel once it moored in Key West."

Coast Guard aircraft and vessels reportedly searched yesterday and today without success.  

This case is the latest situation where a cruise ship fails to have a automatic man overboard system (MOB) to detect persons going overboard and signal the bridge. Such systems are required by the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act.  There are many systems (motion detection, thermal imagery, etc.) which are reliable and currently available to the cruise industry. 

Earlier this month, a 22 year-old passenger disappeared from the Oasis of the Seas without Royal Caribbean knowing. To add to the cruise line's embarrassment, a passing Disney ship rescued the Royal Caribbean passenger, some five hours later.  

How long will the cruise lines refuse to invest in the MOB technology?  There's no other way for an officer on watch to spot an overboard passenger or crew member going into the water at night.

There have been others lost at sea under similar circumstances on the Constellation:

Crew Member Overboard From Celebrity Cruises' Constellation Cruise Ship.

Crew Member Goes Overboard from Celebrity Constellation Cruise Ship.

February 3 2015 Update: The Citizen newspapers says that the passenger was from Canada and fell from deck 11. There was apparently no signs of foul play.

February 4 2015 Update: News papers are identifying the missing passenger as "Carol Tremblay." Mr. Tremblay was identified in the KeyInfoNet which also quoted a Coast Guard saying  "this is a foreign-flagged ship with a foreign citizen aboard, so it's not really in the Coast Guard's purview to do much more at this point." Newspapers in Canada say that Mr. Tremblay had recently retired a trailer in Florida to enjoy his retirement.  

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Constellation Cruise Ship Bridge

Photo Credit:

Top: "Constellation" by Megadri licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Bottom: "IMG CONSTBRG 4604" by Nad7080 licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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