Today’s news that a search is underway to rescue a crew member who apparently jumped from the Grand Princess cruise ship early this morning illustrates a continuing problem with the cruise industry.

A Coast Guard spokesperson said that there was a 2 hour delay between the crew members going overboard and notification to the Coast Guard.    

The 2010 Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act of 2010 required, effective January 1, 2012, that cruise cruise would install automatic man overboard systems.  The legislative intent of the cruise safety act was to make certain that cruise ships had systems in place to notify them immediately when Man Overboard Systemspassengers (or crew) went overboard so that the ship would initiate immediate search and rescue procedures. 

State-of-the-art systems currently exist. When a person goes overboard, the system will send a signal to the bridge, infrared images are recorded, and the cruise ship can mark the exact coordinates of the ship. 

It was extensively debated at several Congressional hearings that "old school" technology, of pouring through hours of surveillance videos after-the-fact, is inadequate to respond reasonably to emergencies when person go into the sea. 

Right now, the cruise message boards indicate that the Grand Princess, along with the nearby Star Princess, and an unidentified cargo ship, are searching the waters some 1,000 miles out at sea from Hawaii. A C-130 Hercules aircraft, courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard, is flying the great distance to assist in the search at considerable expense.

Unfortunately, this is not unlike searching for a needle in a haystack.  

The delay and substantial expense of a tardy search & rescue could be eliminated if cruise lines complied with the cruise safety law.  Rescue efforts could be initiated immediately if the existing technology were implemented. And the chances of a successful rescue could be substantially improved as well.

Another person disappeared from the same Princess cruise ship less than two months ago. A passenger went overboard from the Grand Princess on November 13, 2013.  

In both cases, the Princess ships apparently had no overboard systems. In both cases, Princess had to eventually review the surveillance video to find out what happened. In both cases Princess announced that the person committed suicide. Having old school video doesn’t count. It does not matter either that the person went overboard because of a suicide, as opposed to an accidental fall or being thrown overboard. 

Cruise lines that have not invested in the new technology because of the costs of installing the new systems are causing massive costs to the Coast Guard that U.S. taxpayers pay. They are sloughing off their legal obligations and passing the costs to all of us. 

Non-compliant cruise lines like Princess should be responsible for all costs unnecessarily incurred by the Coast Guard in cases like this.  

You can see a video of the case by a San Francisco news station here.


Image Credit: gCaptain

  • John Goldsmith

    Well, 7 days into 2014 and the posts on this blog have not been at all favourable to the cruise industry. The news thus far does not show a whole lot of change in the future. I researched the man overboard systems out there and if they are available for every vessel from a row boat to an aircraft carrier then the international law makers have to do their part to push for the cruise lines to comply. How? I’m not sure,Maybe some serious penalties for non compliance.
    I look forward to more information on this site. We might open the floor to discussion?
    Thanks Jim.

  • blubayoubilly

    What if the federal government mandated that ALL public buses and motor-coaches be retrofitted with a new safety device, and the bus companies were found to be in noncompliance of that law? What if, as a result of an accident, it was discovered that a certain company was not in compliance? What if, as a result of that non-compliance a passenger or driver lost their life? What would happen? Why is it any different with the cruise lines? Why shouldn’t the cruise lines be responsible for the deaths of passengers and employees that might have been saved, IF the mandated safety devices were in place? Are there people in Washington being paid to turn their heads? What if the next fatality was a family member of theirs?

  • Robert

    I think in the future we will look back and say wasn’t it romantic that ships used to have open balconies. Their days are numbered. You heard it here first!

  • tinikini

    Good point Robert. A cruise would not be a cruise without an open balcony!!! I know we lived on ours on both cruises…would be a shame to lose them because the cruise lines will not pay for the systems to detect an overboard situation, no matter what the reason.

  • jason

    I can’t understand why cruise line would not use this technology which could very much be beneficial to them.If you are going on a cruise would you not want to know you are safe.As a ex crew member I know if nobody did not see you go over board not until some one report you miss then the start to search ship which could be who knows how many hours after

  • Mark Davis

    I can see why they dont use it, Expense for one, and what about our personal rights? If this were a “requirement” the only way it would work is for everyone to have some device attached to them at all times. So every other day in port they would have to spend time accounting for these devices… when changing cloths.. Every time one of those goes off the ship is suppose to do an emergency maneuver?? etc..on and on..
    This is not a case of Princess being negligent, someone goes over in the middle of the Pacific, the logistics of finding them are slim at best.

  • Don

    I looked at a few of the Automatic Man Overboard systems and the ones I looked at require that the individual wear a device that would activate when that person fell overboard for whatever reason. But a lot that is going to do for someone that is attempting to commit suicide. All that person would have to do is simply remove the device.

  • tom

    The sad is nobenefits for the family becuase of the cause of death is suicide