Last night, ABC 20/20 aired a program about the controversy surrounding the cruise industry’s refusal to install automatic man overboard systems.

There is no question that the systems exist and can be installed. However, the cruise industry refuses to do so. (Disney says that its cruise ships have the technology). But it’s clear that Carnival and its brands (HAL, Princess for example) don’t. 

The cruise industry has endless excuses why it has still not complied with the law enacted 4 years ago. It says that a bird or debris in the air can set the alarms off. The lawyer for the cruise lines in the 20/20 program says that the cruise lines have not "perfected" an automatic system yet. But there is no requirement for a "perfect" system. As matters exist now, the cruise lines have no system at all, in violation of the law.

The cruise lines’ approach is to attack the victims. The cruise defense lawyer attacks the dead and injured saying: “I call it ‘sail and sue.’ We deal with it all the time.”  You can read my response here

I will admit that many people I have spoken to don’t seem to care much about the fact that Carnival has no automatic system in place. Most blame the passenger for being intoxicated and are quick to insult her. That’s what Carnival and the other non-compliant cruise lines are counting on.

It’s a rather amazing phenomenon to see a non-tax paying foreign corporation which collects over $15 billion a year, from tax-paying U.S. citizens, and makes hundreds of millions of dollars pushing alcohol sales, blatantly ignore the law requiring overboard systems, and then shift 100% of the blame on to the passenger who got drunk on the Carnival booze. 


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  • Will

    There is definitely blame with the cruise lines not installing person overboard sensors, but in cases where the passenger is completely intoxicated there is definitely SOME blame also with the passenger.

    While cruise lines should definitely install up to date technology to respond to passengers overboard within seconds, that does not negate the fact that passengers should also exercise some common sense and restraint when it comes to drinking on board a ship.

  • John Goldsmith

    A few questions Jim,
    1, Do the cruise lines picking up in the United States pay port fees?
    2, Do these foreign flag ships purchase any goods and services from the places they pick up their passengers?
    3, Will prohibiting any Non U.S. registered sea going vessels from picking up passengers or freight in the U.S. be a benifit to the U.S. economy?
    I am from Canada, so we don’t really have a lot of ports of call for cruising, as the fees and regulations are quite high.
    I agree with you on the topic of the man overboard systems, there are ways to monitor every passenger and crew on any ship anywhere, and not that costly either.
    Trucking companies here do it all the time.
    Have the U.S. lawmakers make the law, that without the system, they cannot dock in the U.S.
    We can discuss the economic results at a later date.
    As for those that have issues with the cruise lines as a result of drunken or stupid behavior, some personal resposibility is required- whether on shore or on a ship.

  • B.

    There are two separate issues of culpability here. An intoxicated passenger, or even someone who makes the conscious choice to climb up on the rails, is responsible for being aware of their risks of going overboard, of injury and/or drowning.

    That consequences of an individual’s judgment, no matter how ill advised, does not hold the same weight as the greater culpability of these cruise ship lines to implement legally mandated, basic safety requirements that could go a long way in preventing accidents, death and missing persons. We don’t blame people who don’t wear their seat belts if or when a automotive company doesn’t follow legal requirements and install more safety equipment in the vehicles that they sell.

  • John Goldsmith

    I agree that a comperhensice MOB system must be implemented. We have evolved to safer cars and air planes, trains and buses. The next step is obvious. Despite the more than recoverable cost of putting a MOB system on board ALL Vessels. this is a no brainer, it could even be a marketting tool. ” you know your’e safer with us….at XXX cruise lines… we watch out for you…”But enforce the law—-all the time.

  • T

    I think the MOB system is a great idea but I get why they don’t want to do it. If people know its there then they will start jumping over just because they can. Also, how often is a bar blamed for drunk driving that causes fatalities?

  • Jenny

    I have worked on cruise ships and also been on board when a passenger was recovered after falling overboard. IT is impossible to FALL overboard!!! The only way someone can go overboard is if they climb over the railing !! It would be impossible for ships to have every inch of deck space under camera surveillance to detect if people go overboard!