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.  

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

The petition has reached 100,001 signatures!

Photo credit: Marianne and Bob Fearnside

No Answers, No CCTV & No Justice: P&O Ferries Leaves Fearnside Family in the Dark

It was a dark night 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 Richard Fearnside P&O FerriesP&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 vanished a year ago today.

It's an anniversary date no parent wants.

For a year, Richard's parents have faced what they believe to be P&O's cover-up of his disappearance. 

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

Last December, I sent an open letter to Ms. Deeble about the absence of CCTV cameras on the 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. 

Ignored by P&O, 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 95,000 people have signed the petition while making insightful and poignant comments explaining why safety camera are required. You can see the petition here

Bob and Marianne FearnsideThe Fearnsides remain in the dark about what happened to Richard. P&O's attitude toward them, and its irresponsible refusal to install cameras on its ships, ensure that other passengers will disappear without explanation.  

Please take a moment to click on the petition. Please sign it. Please tell P&O why it should finally install cameras. 

 

Please read a few of our other articles:

P&O Ferries Refuses to Install CCTV or Man Overboard Systems after Passenger Disappears

P&O Ferries Plagued By Overboard Passengers & No Safety Systems

P&O Ferries Crisis Manager Is No Stranger to Ferry Disasters

P&O Ferries No-CCTV Camera Controversy: Expect a Long Fight

 

Bottom photo credit: Canterbury Times

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P&O Ferries Crisis Manager Is No Stranger to Ferry Disasters

P&O Ferries spokesperson and crisis manager Chris Laming is at the epicenter of the public relations disaster following the disappearance of ferry passenger Richard Fearnside.       

After 31 year-old Richard went missing from the P&O Pride of Kent, his mother Marianne Fearnside wrote to P&O Ferries to ask what happened to her son and to complain that the ferry company did not have closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras on its ships.  The chief executive officer of the ferry company tasked Mr. Laming with writing a letter back to the grieving mother.  

In a time of crisis a cruise line's reputation, and its relationship with the families of killed or missing passengers, P&O Ferries Chris Lamingare often formed not by the circumstances which caused the crisis but by the company's attitude, appearance, and action afterwords. 

I call this the "three A's" of cruise line crisis management: attitude, appearance & action. When disaster strikes and passengers are killed or disappear during a vacation cruise, the public has a remarkable capacity to forgive the company involved - provided it takes a few basic steps not to make matters worse.  

In practical terms, people understand that accidents are inevitable. "Sh*t happens," the saying goes. An individual or company can be forgiven if they demonstrate a humble and respectful attitude; they appear on the scene and appear to take stock of the problems they caused; and they take prompt action to prevent others from suffering a similar fate. 

Sounds easy, doesn't it? But most cruise lines and ferry operators don't seem to have a clue what to do in a time of crisis. Many companies do the opposite of what they should do. They demonstrate an obnoxious attitude. They try and disappear from public scrutiny and disavow responsibility. They act defensively and take no steps to prevent the event from occurring again.

Bad or malicious PR can infuriate families of the victims and cause them to dedicate their lives to requiring cruise lines and ferry companies to act responsibly. 

I'm not sure what P&O crisis manager Chris Laming was thinking when he wrote back to Richard's mother. His letter consisted of just seven sentences. You'd think that a PR professional for ferry companies for 27 years could string together a few sincere sounding pleasantries to acknowledge the grief of a mother who lost her child, together with choice action phrases suggesting that the company would be conducting a full investigation with an eye toward learning lessons from the mishap and possibly implementing safety improvements to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.

Just two weeks ago, I complemented P&O Ferries who did the right thing when it transported a morbidly obese young man from Dover to Calais by ferry. Cunard and British Airways had refused him passage from the U.S. because of his weight (500 lbs). Virgin Airways flew him to the U.K. and then P&O helped him reach France where he lives. Mr. Laming had issued a very compassionate statement on P&O's behalf: "It's difficult to imagine the frustration that this gentleman has gone through. But for us, it's very straightforward as we are set up to carry people who have medical needs."  

P&O's letter to Mrs. Fearnside, however, contained no hint of compassion or sympathy and no illusion that the company would be taking the matter seriously with an eye toward remedial action. There was nothing sounding like "please-accept-our-sincerest-condolences-for-the-loss-of-your-son" type of thing. P&O's attitude (the first "A" in crisis management) was all wrong. The letter contained nothing polite, conciliatory or respectful. 

But the last couple of sentences were worse. Mr. Laming wrote:

"It would not be physically possible to cover all of the open deck spaces with CCTV, or monitor such cameras 24 hours a day, or make and retain recordings in perpetuity."

He concluded his letter stating ". . . we do not consider that anything more could have been done in the circumstances." 

Later, when local newspapers in the U.K. began to cover the story, Mr. Laming explained why P&O refused to consider installing CCTV cameras on open passenger decks to prevent and assist in responding to man overboard situations:

"It is so rare. It is just not practical to consider doing this."   

I have seen many PR managers at cruise lines make these type of statements to try and get out of a tight spot. "We have carried millions of passengers and nothing like this has ever happened before. We are the safest way to travel. Overboard passengers are ultra-rare. Our ships are safe. We are going to continue to sail without any changes." And so forth and so on.

Statements like this are usually false. (P&O has a history of unexplained man overboard cases). Plus these type of statements eventually make the cruise or ferry company look like they are hiding something. The "it's rare" defense just invites people, like me, to begin to investigate how many times similar incidents have in fact occurred. Invariably, the public learns that man overboards are hardly rare and occur with alarming frequency. The end result is that the ferry companies lose credibility and invite public scorn.          

Mr. Laming has defended ferry companies in the court of public opinion before. According to his resume poster on LinkedIn, a year after he became the public relation officer for Townsend Thoresen / P&O European Ferries in 1986, the ferry line experienced one of the worse public relation disasters imaginable.

In 1987, the Herald of Free Enterprise was sailing a route between Dover and Zeebrugge in Belgium. Herald of Free Enterprises DisasterThe ferry carried 459 passengers, 80 crew members, 81 cars, 3 buses and 47 trucks. Within minutes after leaving its berth in Zeebrugge's harbor, the ferry began taking on massive amounts of water. The ship began to list. It lost all power and electricity, leaving the passengers in darkness. The ferry then capsized. 193 people died due to drowning or hypothermia in the icy cold waters.

Mr. Laming responded to the disaster on the cruise line's behalf. He told newspaper reporters words to the effect that the ship was safe and this was just an isolated, freak accident. He was quoted in a London newspaper article entitled "Disaster Cause Unknown" saying that the ferry company's fleet of three ships of this class had carried "millions and millions of people without any mishap . . . Our ships will continue in service, and this, as far as we are concerned, was a tragic, one-oft incident."  

But the ferry line knew exactly what had happened and also knew that at least one similar incident had happened before. A subsequent public inquiry revealed that the ship's giant bow doors (which open to permit trucks and cars to drive on ramps into the ship) had been negligently left open when the ferry left the port in Belgium. Incredibly, an assistant boatswain responsible for closing the doors had fallen asleep in his cabin. A ship officer, who duty was to stay on deck to make sure that the bow doors were closed, left his post.  Another boatswain who was the last person on the car deck, testified that he did not close the doors because it was not his job. The captain did not verify that the doors were closed. There were no alarms in place to signal that the doors were open. The ferry line thought that it was frivolous to spend money on equipment to indicate if employees had failed to do their job correctly. 

The official investigation also revealed that the ferry line suffered from a "disease of sloppiness" and "negligence at every level of the corporation's hierarchy." The investigation showed a major problem with the ferry ship itself. The ship did not have any watertight compartments; any flooding would allow water to flow the length of the ship. This was revealed in a similar prior incident when in 1983, the ferry's sister ship Pride of Free Enterprise had sailed from Dover to Zeebrugge with the bow doors open. Its assistant boatswain also fell asleep in that incident as well.  You can read the official report of the disaster here

Survivors of the disaster are still grieving and traumatized today

The disaster lead to substantial changes in the rules and regulations pertaining to ferries of this type.

What Mr. Laming told reporters about the Herald of Free Enterprises two and one-half decades ago was the opposite of the truth. There were deadly design flaws in the ferry; there had been prior problems with a boatswain asleep on the job and sailing with open doors; and there had been at least one essentially identical problem with a sister ship sailing between Dover and Zeebrugge.

So here we are 26 years later. The ferry line's crisis manager is telling essentially the same PR story to the public. Don't worry. We're safe. There's nothing wrong with our ships. Passenger overboards are "so rare." Its "not practical" to invest in CCTV equipment for safety reasons, he says.

But PR statements like this won't work if the public has a healthy dose of skepticism and takes a hard look at a company's actual safety record. How many other passengers will be lost at sea because P&O thinks its frivolous to invest in CCTV cameras and automatic man overboard alarms?

 

Follow the story on Ms. Fearnside's Facebook page.  After receiving P&O's letter, she started a petition to require ferry operators like P&O Ferries to install CCTV cameras. Over 80,000 have signed the petition so far. Click here and sign the petition.   Also please leave a comment if you have a thought about this issue or join the discussion on our Facebbok page

Photo Credits:

Photo Top: P&O Ferries' Chris Laming - LinkedIn

Photo Bottom: Herald Of Free Enterprises - BBC 

P&O Ferries Plagued By Overboard Passengers & No Safety Systems

P&O Ferries crisis management spokesperson Chris Laming recently responded to the disappearance of passenger Richard Fearnside.

He stated that P&O Ferries refuses to consider installing CCTV cameras on the Pride of Kent ferry.

He told a newspaper in Kent, U.K.:

"It is so rare. It is just not practical to consider doing this."

That's cruel, and it's hardly true.P&O Ferries - Passenger Missing - Teresa Cowley

Last December, a 43 year-old mother of twin girls disappeared from another P&O Ferries ship, the Pride of Rotterdam. Teresa Cowley (right) fell overboard following a night of drinking on board the P&O ferry as it sailed from Hull to Rotterdam in the early hours of December 31, 2012. 

The sale of alcohol is a major money maker for cruise lines and ferry operators. Excessive alcohol sales increase the likelihood of passengers going overboard and require effective safety protocols and systems.

The Daily Mail in the U.K. covered the story in an article: "British Mother of Twin Girls Feared Drowned After Flling Off Ferry During Night Drinking With Husband On Holland-Bound Ship."  

The newspaper article states that an after-the-fact review of "CCTV cameras on board the ship show Teresa staggering alone on deck shortly after 1 AM." But like Richard Fearnside's case, there was no CCTV showing the passenger going overboard, and apparently the P&O ship had no automatic overboard system signalling the bridge of the emergency. 

Five months later, Mr. Fearnside also disappeared. Two overboard, dead P&O passengers in just 5 months. Are man-overboard cases really "so rare" as P&O claims?

In August of this year, a passenger went overboard from the P&O Pride of Burgandy.

In January 2011, P&O Ferries notified the U.K. Maritime and Coastguard Agency of a passenger missing from the P&O European Highlander ferry sailing from Larne to Cairnryan. The newspaper stated this was "standard procedure" when people go overboard from a P&O ferry. "A major air and sea search" was launched due to the emergency. Again, there were no CCTV images of the apparent overboard nor any type of automatic man overboard system on the ship. Eventually the expensive search & rescue operation was called off after the ferry company couldn't determine whether the passenger went overboard or was simply unaccounted for.

A similar incident occurred in 2006 aboard the Pride of Kent when P&O Ferries alerted authorities of the disappearance of a young couple leading to an early morning, 7 hour, international air and sea search involving four lifeboats, a rescue tug, two French helicopters and one coastguard search plane.  After this massive and expensive undertaking, it turns out that the two passengers has disembarked the ferry and were located in Belgium. All of this could have been avoided by the installation of CCTV and overboard systems.

The absence of safety systems presents a danger for crew members as well as passengers. In 2008, a crew member aboard the P&O ferry Pride of Rotterdam disappeared 20 miles out at sea. Seven lifeboats and two search and rescue helicopters subsequently tried to find the man; however, a Royal Navy spokesperson told the BBC that the water was "very cold" and the man's chances of survival were considered "very slim."

For U.S. based cruise lines, the use of CCTV cameras is standard operating procedure. As I mentioned in a previous article, cruise lines like Norwegian Cruise Line have over 1,000 CCTV cameras in operation on a single ship. Some cruise ships, although not many, have state-of-the art automatic man overboard systems. But the U.K.'s P&O Ferries appears to be decades behind in terms of basic safety and security systems.

CCTV systems play an important part of a vessel's safety and security system. A CCTV system with automatic alarms is essential to the timely search and rescue of passengers going overboard. Contrary to what many think, overboard passengers can be saved if the bridge is notified promptly of the emergency. A passenger who fell off of the P&O Express ferry was rescued in 2009 because other passengers immediately notified the ship's crew. Another passenger from the P&O ferry Pride of Calais was promptly rescued in 2010.  Similar success was not obtained when a passenger went overboard from the P&O ferry, the Pride of Burgundy, in October 2010.

But many overboards occur in the dark late at night when no other passengers are around which make the need for CCTV systems even more important. A sound vessel safety program should integrate state-of-the-art technologies and not rely on the customers to report emergencies when things go wrong.

You can see a successful rescue of a passenger from a different ferry company here. The woman reportedly fell from an upper deck after trying to light her cigarette.

CCTV is also effective in monitoring whether criminals or terrorists come onto a ship or whether Pride of Rotterdamcustomers go off the ship due to foul play or preventable accidents. They act as a deterrent to crime and have a wide range of safety applications. They can assist the operators in determining whether the passengers are in a state of intoxication which often leads to horse-play and accidents.  

In April last year, around 200 students in an intoxicated rampage from Manchester trashed a P&O ferry sailing from Dover to Calais ferry and frightened fellow passengers. CCTV cameras would have been effective in documenting the unsafe and reckless behavior and aiding in the prosecution of those involved in the drunken shipboard brawl.

There's no justification for not installing CCTV cameras on a commercial passenger ship. The costs are inexpensive and the cargo is precious. 

 

Have a thought? Join the discussion on our Facebook page. 

Call for help: The Fearnside family has started a campaign to require ferry operators to install CCTV cameras on their vessels.  Please click here and sign the petition.

Photo Credit: Newsteam via Daily Mail

P&O Ferries Refuses to Install CCTV or Man Overboard Systems after Passenger Disappears

The parents of a 30 year-old passenger who disappeared from a ferry sailing between Calais and Dover are petitioning for legislation requiring ships to install closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras.

Richard Fearnside, son of Marianne and Bob Fearnside, of Whitstable, Kent (U.K.), disappeared from the Pride of Kent ferry last May. He was last seen going to an exterior deck to smoke a cigarette. An alarm was not raised until the ship docked at Dover at the end of the cruise when his girlfriend could not locate him.

Richard Fearnside - Missing - Pride of KentThe delayed search and rescue efforts, conducted by ships and helicopters, were unsuccessful.

Richard's mother was quoted in a local newspaper stating "we don't know whether Richard slipped, fell, jumped or was pushed - we have no idea what happened to our son. He just vanished."

The ferry company, P&O Ferries, has been indifferent to the family's plight.

Mr. and Ms. Fearnside corresponded with P&O Ferries asking it to install cameras on passenger decks, but the ferry line rebuffed them. 

P&O Ferries crisis management spokesman Chris Laming wrote back to the Fearnsides claiming that it would be impossible for the ferry company to:

  • "Cover all of the open spaces with CCTV, 
  • Monitor such cameras 24 hours a day, or
  • Make and retain such recordings in perpetuity."

As anyone with a minimum understanding of the affordable technology readily available to the maritime community knows, these statements made on P&O Ferries behalf are patently false and misleading. It is easy to position CCTV cameras to cover all of the public areas, especially in small ferry boats like this. Reputable operators retain the electronic data for 30 days and automatic sensors do not require the cameras to be manned 24 hours. 

We have attended over a half-dozen U.S. Congressional hearings about cruise ship safety. There has been extensive debate about the need for CCTV cameras covering the public areas of cruise ships and automatic man-overboard systems to alert the bridge that a person has gone overboard from the ship. 

Automatic man-overboard systems exist and are easily installed. It is preposterous to suggest that it is not possible to cover all of the public spaces with CCTV cameras and man-overboard technology. Small ferries have limited open decks and no private balconies (see photo below). Watch this recent video which includes a former Coast Guard engineer who designed such systems.

Norwegian Cruise Line, for examples, has installed literally over a 1,000 cameras on its newest cruise ships. It can track every single inch of its cruise ships.

The only reason that a cruise line or ferry operator would refuse to install such systems is that they do not want to spend the money. They prefer profits over safety. Ironically, companies like P&O Ferries install cameras in their liquor and duty free shops to deter theft (cruise lines always install cameras in casinos to protect their money); however, they will take no steps to use cameras in other public spaces to deter sexual assaults and violence against passengers.

Protecting booze bottles and casino chips seems more important than protecting people on the high seas.

The result of such irresponsibility and greed is delayed rescue attempts of passengers and crew members who go overboard. Just like in Mr. Fearnside's case, the Coast Guard is typically called in late.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer's money is spent to search unnecessarily wide areas of the sea looking for the overboard person. It's like searching for a needle in the haystack.

Maritime operators like P&O Ferries would prefer taxpayers foot the bill rather than spending its own money on CCTV cameras and automatic overboard systems to protect its passengers and crew in the first place.

Cruise Expert Professor Ross Klein has documented 208 persons overboard from cruise ships and ferries since 2000.

The Fearnsides are doing something about this problem. They have started a campaign to require these irresponsible cruise and ferry operators to install CCTV cameras. BBC recently discussed the family's efforts to protect the public. Click on the link here and consider signing the petition.  

Also, please join our discussion on our Facebook page.  Please share the information with your friends and ask them to support the petition.

February 29 2013 Update: Think that cases of overboard passengers from ferries are rare? Hardly. read: P&O Ferries Plagued By Overboard Passengers & No Safety Systems

Photo credit (bottom): Wikipedia / Fabian318