The cost of this search could have easily paid for 10 camera operators and 10 more security guards. The technology has long existed for a computerized system using motion detectors tied in with the video cameras to signal an alarm to the bridge when the cameras/detectors are triggered by a person going overboard (whether they jump or are pushed). The video image would be captured on a bridge computer screen and the exact location of the overboard would be documented. Then the Coast Guard would at least have a chance to save the day.
The tragedy of Neha Chhikara’s disappearance from the Monarch of the Seas raises a lot of issues.
Why did her husband, described as a Royal Caribbean "manager," wait 8 hours before reporting his distraught wife missing? Why almost a ten hour delay from the time of Ms. Chhikara going overboard until the cruise line reported the incident to the US Coast Guard?
Ms. Chhikara was picked up on CCTV video when she went overboard. But does Royal Caribbean monitor its own video cameras?
Were any security guards awake?
When finally notified, the US Coast Guard scrambled an HU-25 Falcon jet crew, an HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, a C-130 Hercules aircraft and the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Cormorant to search for Ms. Chhikara. But this was 10 hours after she went overboard.
Royal Caribbean needs to spend some of its billions investing in security guards, surveillance camera operators and bringing its security technology up to the standards of the 21st century.
But this is a game of money and Royal Caribbean is behind the 8 ball. It’s still scratching its head trying to figure out how it can pay for both the Oasis of the Seas and her sister mega-ship Allure of the Seas which will arrive in less than a year.
Royal Caribbean is content on letting the U.S. Government foot the bill for the rescue which was doomed by the cruise line’s delay. This is unfair, particularly considering that Royal Caribbean pays no Federal income tax for the almost $6,000,000,000 (billion!) in annual ticket sales and onboard revenues (alcohol, casino, excursions, you name it) which the cruise line collects from tax paying U.S. passengers.
So if you buy a cruise with your after-tax-dollars, and a wife of an allegedly abusive Royal Caribbean crew member jumps overboard to end her suffering, and Royal Caribbean calls the U.S. Coast Guard 10 hours late – U.S. taxpayers get to pay for the $600,000 or so spent by the U.S. Coast Guard flying jets and helicopters and patrolling cutters around in circles looking for a needle in a haystack.
To make matter worse, cruise lines like Royal Caribbean know they are not going to pay any real damages even if they get sued for their malfeasance. Royal Caribbean’s ultimate exposure to damages is limited by the Death On The High Seas Act – which we have written about in prior articles.
This scenario of overboard passengers and delayed reporting will repeat itself unless the cruise line faces financial accountability – or Congress gets involved and mandates some meaningful safety improvements on these foreign flagged cruise ships.
The story also raises larger issues regarding passenger safety. If someone can go over a rail and into the water "undetected" by Royal Caribbean security, someone (like a terrorist) can come over the rail and onto the ship just as easily and hold the ship’s crew and passengers hostage.
These types of stories reveal that there are not enough security guards patrolling the decks of Royal Caribbean cruise ships. And no one looks at the surveillance cameras – until it is too late.
Is anyone awake at Royal Caribbean?
Oluniyi D. Ajao Blog
Charles James Wright Blog