Several guests aboard the Carnival Spirit report that a young man went overboard from the cruise ship as it headed toward Noumea, New Caledonia.

A guest sent the following information via email:

“Person reported overboard near coast of Noumea 1 AM cruise ship had to return to middle of the ocean to search at 4 AM.  no-one found. 25 year old middle eastern man. Surveillance of man falling.”

Several other guests stated on Twitter:

The man was reported overboard on the early morning on March 29, 2019. (There is a twelve hour time difference between Miami (EST) and New Caledonia).

The Carnival Spirit departed from Sydney, Australia on March 27th and was scheduled to arrive in Noumea, New Caledonia on March 30th at 8:00 AM local time. The ship was scheduled to call on ports in Vanuatu and New Caledonia before returning to Sydney on April 7th.

According to cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein, there have been 337 people who have gone overboard since 2000 from cruise ships and large ferries.

Safety at Sea recently wrote an article about Dr. Klein’s data titled Joining the Data Dots: Cruise Ship MOBs. It concludes that the revelation that such a significant number of people have gone overboard during this time period “has prompted a conversation on the industry’s safety practices.” Safety at Sea writes:

“From an average of 1.5 people that fall overboard from cruise ships each month, only 17% are rescued. . . . This incident data should lead to a shift in the way man overboards (MOBs) are regarded in the cruise ship industry and prompt action to better protect against them. While there are undoubtedly cases of passengers willfully (or drunkenly) ignoring safety warnings, one cannot ignore the wider pattern of risk shown by Klein’s data. Cruise lines should certainly veer away from blaming passengers and find better ways of safeguarding them.”

A start would be for cruise lines to install automatic man overboard systems, which have long been required by U.S. law for cruise ships calling on U.S. ports. Such systems utilize sophisticated motion detection, infrared and radar technology that can track the person at night in the water.

For the few cruise ships (Disney ships and one MSC ship) which have invested in such technology, the system can substantially increase a ship’s response to a guest or crew member going overboard. Most importantly, the system can significantly improve the likelihood of a ship conducting a successful search and rescue.

One such system, by MARSS MOBtronic, has been commercially available since 2010.  There are a number of other reliable MOB systems that have been proven to be reliable, reasonably affordable and readily available to the cruise lines.

For cruise lines like Carnival which have not invested in the technology, ship personnel are forced to conduct a slow, “old school” search of the ship and review hours of CCTV surveillance images to try and figure out if a person went overboard.

The Carnival Spirit began its service in April of 2001. It was refitted for cosmetic purposes before being transferred to sail in Australia in 2012 when it was home ported in Sydney, Australia. The ship sails to New Caledonia, Fiji, Vanuatu and New Zealand. In mid 2018, the Carnival ship was dry-docked for two weeks to undergo another renovation for entertainment and retail purposes.

Carnival is a good example of a cruise line which spends its tax free money collected from its customers on entertainment/retail improvements to its ships rather than investing in life-saving safety technology.

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Photo credit: AIS data – MarineTraffic; Carnival Spirit in Sydney- Hpeterswald – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.