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. Reprehensibly, five years after the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 was enacted, cruise lines still refuse to upgrade outdated video surveillance technology for the latest in automatic man overboard detection.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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