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 cruise 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