Adventure of the SeasThe Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently issued a report regarding whether the cruise industry has implemented the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) of 2010. 

I have pointed out that the last several man overboard cases indicate that the cruise industry refuses to install the necessary man overboard technology. It’s disgraceful that this is the situation in 2014.  

The GAO report indicates the cruise lines have still failed to implement four key provisions of the CVSSA:

  • (1) man overboard technology, which detects and alerts the crew to a person falling overboard;
  • (2) video recording requirements, which are to assist in documenting crimes on the vessel and in providing evidence for the prosecution of such crimes;
  • (3) acoustical hailing and warning devices, which provide communication capability around a vessel operating in high-risk waters; and
  • (4) certification of training providers that teach the CVSSA training course on crime prevention, detection, evidence preservation, and reporting.

The GAO report states that five companies have indicated that they have effective man overboard technology in order for the cruise lines to comply with the CVSSA. 

However, the cruise lines and its trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), claim that the man overboard technology does not exist. CLIA further informed the GAO that that man overboard technology is not reliable because of the movement of the ship, weather, sun glare, and "lens encrustation caused by saltwater." 

These seems like flimsy excuses to me.  We reported before on systems that exist and are readily Man Overboardavailable. Read here and here. If salt water on the lens of a camera is really a problem, then have a crew member wipe it off! 

The GAO met with five cruise lines about the non-compliance issue. Four of the five cruise lines claim that they are testing different technologies on their ships. One of the lines, which the GAO report did not identify, is not even bothering to conduct any testing. 

Some of the cruise lines complained about false readings. One unidentified cruise line representative complained that a false positive "could result in increased operational costs such as conducting unnecessary searches or disrupting an itinerary."

This cruise line argued that if the "technology failed to detect a passenger who had gone overboard, and as a result the vessel failed to conduct a search for that person, this type of error could expose the cruise line to costly litigation."

The cruise lines all complained about having to "invest significant amounts of money in man overboard technology." 

In my assessment, it seems like the cruise lines are more interested in avoiding costs rather than saving lives. 

The cruise industry’s excuses are simply amazing. As matters now stand, there are no man overboard readings at all. Both passengers and crew members continue to go overboard undetected in most cases. This causes long delays before the Coast Guard is notified and vastly increases the area the Coast Guard helicopters and airplanes have to search. Some delayed searches cost the Coast Guard a million dollars.  Who pays for these costs? U.S. taxpayers, not the foreign flagged cruise lines which do not even pay any federal income taxes anyway.   

One other interesting issue which the GAO report revealed is that the cruise lines expressed frustration with the delay of the Coast Guard in making recommendations about suitable overboard systems and not communicating with the cruise lines. 

However, the cruise lines are not required to wait for the Coast Guard to design the systems for them. Our federal government may be skilled in quickly medevacing ill passengers on the high seas, but it is dreadfully slow in passing maritime laws that affect the cruise lines and enforcing them. The cruise industry has been in violation of the law for years. Blaming the Coast Guard is not an excuse.  

My recommendation for compelling the cruise lines to install the required systems is to make it in their best economic interests to do so.

All cruise lines not compliant with the CVSSA should to be 100% responsible for all Coast Guard costs when the cruise lines waste hours before notifying them of a person who has gone overboard. Installing a system which saves human lives is far more important than a $35 billion non-tax-paying foreign industry avoiding costs associated with a false positive once in a while. It’s also far cheaper to U.S. taxpayers than having, as matter now stand, no system at all. 

 

Art Credit: CruelKev2’s blog

Photo: ABC News

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