A cruise passenger has reportedly gone overboard from the Holland America Line (HAL) Statendam cruise ship in the last 24 hours. 

When the Statendam arrived in Seattle this morning around 5:00 A.M. at the end of its 14 day Alaskan cruise, the passenger was not accounted for by the crew staff. 

The cruise line notified the U.S. Coast Guard of the missing passenger shortly before 11:00 A.M., a Statendam delay of 5 hours after the cruise arrived in port.

HAL later released a prepared statement a 64-year-old man was aboard the cruise ship when it last sailed from Victoria on last night

The Coast Guard then tried to put together a search plan and notified mariners to be alert for a person in the water. The FBI and the Canadian Coast Guard were also notified.

The man apparently disappeared between 10:00 P.M. when the ship departed Victoria and 5:00 A.M. when it arrived in Seattle this morning. 

The news accounts say that HAL reviewed surveillance video and determined their guest was seen on the footage when the cruise ship was near the northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula. However neither the Coast Guard nor HAL would disclose what the video showed.

This means to me in all probability that there is no video of the man going overboard. If the video showed this, there is no doubt that a company like HAL would immediately disclose it to try and blame the passenger.  My conclusion is that there is probably video of the passenger somewhere on the ship and the cruise line was able to correlate the time-stamp images when the passenger was last seen with the approximate location of the ship. 

This case illustrates the sad state of affairs in the cruise industry with man overboards. A passenger disappears over a 7 hour period of time at sea and the cruise line has to look at surveillance video over the course of 6 hours when it reaches the next port  before it can belatedly inform the Coast Guard to conduct a search? The legally required automatic man overboard systems would have immediately signaled the bridge of the ship and a search and rescue could be immediately conducted. 

Millions of dollars are needlessly wasted as the Coast Guard goes on a wild goose chase and, more importantly, a life-saving search is delayed by the failure to comply with the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA).

According to Shiip Technology Market and Insight, "90% of cruise lines do not employ an MOB alarm system designed to sound on the bridge or at other centralized security station when it detects a person overboard." The publication quoted me on the issues saying: 

"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 infrared, motion-detection, radar, and tracking technologies which are ready, reliable and long overdue."

"Most cruise line are resisting compliance with the CVSSA requirement for an automatic MOB, claiming that man overboard technology is not reliable. That’s patently a false and misleading argument. The technology clearly exists but the cruise industry simply does not wish to spend the money necessary to save lives."

A week ago, a NCL crew member disappeared from a ship sailing to Alaska.  NCL apparently did not have a CVSSA-compliant man overboard system either. 

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

July 14 2015 Update: News sources say that the Coast Guard abandoned the search as of 6 P.M. yesterday.


Photo Credit: greenseaweed Flickr

  • J W

    They knew something went overboard. We were passengers on the ship and heard loud bumps and scraping at our window on the port side of the ship at 2:15am. We tried to call the front desk, but there was no answer. Shortly after, someone turned on a huge light and shone it along side our window. According to a HAL publication, this ship was testing out a warning system for this kind of thing. I am kind of shocked that nothing made them pause and think that someone may have jumped or fallen overboard. It’s the first thing we thought of.

  • Jeff

    A pilot bumps the hull and then shines a spot light on the ladder so that the pilot can climb onboard at that time in the morning – it was the port Angeles pilot boat putting the Seattle pilot onboard that the commenting passenger heard.

  • Silvia Borges

    Has Holland given the name of the person who is/was missing?

  • Christeen Rossington

    It’s such an easy fix.

    Why on earth can’t the cruise lines get their act together and install Man Overboard Systems.

  • Janis

    And what would you propose HAL do during the hours of 10pm and 5am to “monitor” their guests when most are in their cabins sleeping at that time of the night. Especially considering in this case that the that the next day was debark and they had to be up early and prepared to get of the ship? I worked for this AMAZING company for over a decade. They ALWAYS do what’s in the best interest of their guests and crew safety and comfort.

  • Patty Bailey

    All the cruise lines don’t have the man over board system, so why pick on just one cruise line. This is not the first time it happened on a cruise line. It is terribly sad if a man lost his life and for his family too. Maybe he was able to sneak past the check out desk and is ok. Not everything is perfect in check out systems.

  • H

    Why can’t passengers commit suicide by other means then jumping of cruiseships. With railings everywhere one does not just fall overboard. Sad that it happens, but do not blame the cruise lines for inadequacy, look at the mental state of passengers instead.

  • D

    Thank you very much “H”. Exactly. People have been committing “death by cruise ship” for years. It’s sad. I was on a cruise to Hawaii where a man jumped during the day. We turned around and spent a few hours looking for him. We found him alive but not wanting to be rescued. He was pulled onboard. He had gone off his meds. I also was on one that the line thought something had gone overboard in the night. We turned around and they did a total bed check of the whole ship including crew. Then, those in balconies looked for a few hours with the spotlights helping. The bed check then determined no one was missing and we went on. The cruise lines do look.
    Yes, there is a warning system but most of the cruise lines don’t use it. If it is unreliable it would cause more problems that passengers wouldn’t like, like turning around to look for something overboard. Then the posts would be slamming the cruise lines for delaying ports, etc.
    It’s a no win situation.

  • Paul Inkman

    The argument that HAL “should” have known that a soul was missing at 05:00 (arrival) is both specious and disingenuous. Security scans each ID card for passengers and crew for each and every dis/embark. The ship must reach “Zero Count” for census before the next group of passengers is permitted to embark (joining staff do come on ahead of passengers, though). There was no 6 hour delay in notification as alleged.
    The passenger’s ID was scanned as an Embarkation, and when at cruise end they had not passed through security for disembarkation, then the on-board search began. I disembarked at 10:00; security was looking for the passenger, used multiple overhead pages, and was just then beginning their complete ship-wide search.
    The proper authorities were notified within the hour, not multiple hours, after determining the (passenger) count was off.
    That said, a correctly functioning MOB system would save time, money, and reduce the not insignificant risk to SAR participants.

  • Obviously HAL would have known that a guest went overboard exactly when it occured if it invested in the existing MOB technology. It’s criminal that it did not install such a system. If the passenger went overboard at 11:30 PM and the system would have detected it, it it outrageous to wait until the ship arrived at port and wade through surveillance film and finally report it 11 and 1/2 hours later. What good does it do to notify the “proper authorities” when it’s too late.

  • Jw

    According to the Statendam’s ‘On Location’ publication, they HAD a man overboard system on board that they were testing. I know that they heard or saw something because they rolled the spotlights around the site of the ship for about 20 minutes after we heard the noise on our window. They could have called this one in to the Coast Guard at 2:15am.

    I know that they can’t prevent people from jumping, but they can take action when it appears that someone has gone overboard.

  • Terri

    I was on the ship, as well. They were always very good with the passengers, and as someone said above, until all the passengers are off, no one really knows if someone is missing. I felt the bump, too, but when I looked out of my window I saw the pilot boat. I was on the lowest level, just above the water line. Perhaps a MOB would work, and if so, shouldn’t it be enforced? Who is really at fault? The missing person, the ship and it’s company, the authorities? I feel bad for the man, he was in need of help, but no one knew.

  • William Burns

    I knew this man. I went to high school with him. I’m not going to speculate as to what happened on the cruise but I will say that he was a great person. I have never seen or heard of him hurting anyone in his life. He will be remembered with love and pleasant thoughts by all the people who knew him. Rest In Peace, my friend. See you on the other side.