This week the cruise industry is meeting in Miami as part of the annual trade show, Cruise Shipping Miami #CMS2015. One topic that cruise lines will avoid talking about is automatic man overboard systems and the industry’s refusal to comply with the 2010 Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act. 

Last week, Senator Robert Blumenthal (D-CT) accurately summed up the disappearance of a 21 year old Virginia Tech student during spring break vacation, saying that the young man "didn’t have to die."

". . .  the stark tragic fact is that readily available life-saving technology could have spared him. cruise shipping miamiReprehensibly, five years after the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 was enacted, cruise lines still refuse to upgrade outdated video surveillance technology for the latest in automatic man overboard detection. The cruise industry should be ashamed and embarrassed by this failure to embrace this lifesaving technology. Such technology could have immediately detected Cameron’s fall and made sure valuable time was not wasted reviewing camera footage."

Carnival responded to the overboard from the Glory like it usually does in man overboard cases – it said nothing. But after the story of the young man disappearing during his vacation cruise gained traction on social media and found it’s way into the national and international press, Carnival released a carefully crafted press statement from its trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), to blame the young man for his death. 

CLIA claims that “while incidents of man overboard in the cruise industry are rare, and typically found to be the result of an intentional or reckless act, cruise lines take a number of steps to help prevent such situations. These include mandatory railing heights, well-trained personnel, and video cameras.”

First of all, CLIA claims that it does not even keep statistics of man overboard cases. The most accurate list by far is Professor Ross Klein’s statistics on his website showing that an average of 20 people a year go overboard from cruise ships. It’s cavalier for CLIA to brush the deaths off as "rare" when they are occurring an average of over one and a half times a month.

CLIA takes credit for the heights of vessel railings but the higher rails came about only through the legislative efforts of a victim organization which the cruise lines have been fighting against for a decade. 

Video surveillance cameras, not connected to automatic man overboard systems, are useless to deal with people falling overboard. The cruise industry as a whole refuses to implement true life-saving devices including infra-red, motion-detection, radar, and tracking technologies which are ready, reliable and long overdue. 

Time after time, missing passenger after missing passenger, cruise lines will claim that its "highest priority is the safety of its guests." "Our thoughts are with the family" is a common phrase when a passenger disappears. Hogwash. This is entirely a profit driven industry where cutting costs and increasing revenue are the goals.

If it really cared about it’s guests, the cruise industry wouldn’t sell endless amounts of booze, refuse to implement the legally required automatic man overboard systems, and then accuse the very guests it grossly intoxicates of reckless conduct when they go overboard.

What will it take for cruise lines to install the available MOB technology? What type of sanction is necessary before Carnival and Royal Caribbean follow the law? Will cruise executives have to face jail time before the industry complies with the 2010 Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act?

March 18 2015 Update: As cruise executive meet in Miami Beach at the 2015 Cruise Shipping Miami convention, a 54 year old passenger disappears from the Carnival Triumph cruise ship.

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  • John Goldsmith

    I tried looking at the legislation on line to see what penalties are levied against cruise lines for non compliance. The language that is used is more convoluted than I imagined. It looks as though the bottom line is…. There are no serious penalties for not complying with the law, as written. So the corporations that own the cruise industry will comply using the lowest cost option to barely meet the codes required. If they get a $10,000.00 fine for a railing issue, or a theft/assault event, or even the Man overboard scenario. That’s just the cost of doing business. Just like any large corporation in the U.S or Canada, they plan for that.

  • Barry Shrum

    Been cruising with family and friends over the last several years. NEVER NEVER EVER had a safety issue. I applaud the cruise lines for providing me/family a fun filled vacation at a reasonable price. I feel for the family members who have lost loved ones but time and again, these are the consequences of risky behavior that is the sole responsibility of the ones behaving that way. Stop trying to blame the companies who strive to provide a vacation experience for everyone at a reasonable cost and focus your attention on those who are to blame. We were on the Glory last week and had a very good safe time as usual. Yes, Carnival and the rest are trying to provide a vacation experience and make money. THAT IS WHAT BUSINESSES DO. All this extra security increases costs to operate which trinkles down to the consumer all because a few people make stupid decisions.

  • corners

    “All this extra security increases costs to operate which trinkles down to the consumer all because a few people make stupid decisions. ”

    If they are going to go turn around and look for them, might as well get automatic overboard cameras. If you want to get into costs pass on Im sure its much cheaper to not look long for anyone thats gone overboard, right?

    Its so dumb to have the attitude” well i was fine”. People like that dont give a crap till it comes home.

    How would you feel if your son or daughter went overboard and the ship wasnt sure when it happened or where? Would you say ” She should have known better, continue on.”?