A crew member employed on the AIDA operated and Carnival Corporation owned AIDAPerla cruise ship went overboard last night / early this morning as the ship was heading from Hamburg, Germany into the English Channel on a cruise to the Caribbean.

A German cruise passenger provided me with a detailed explanation of the tragic events. The chronology reveals that there was at least a four and one-half hour time period between when the crew member went overboard and when the ship finally turned around to begin search and rescue efforts.

Time Line From Cruise Passenger:

  • Shortly before 9:00 a.m. – captain is notified of overboard crew member (the Independent newspaper reports that”HM Coastguard was alerted at about 8:55 a.m.);
  • 10:03 a.m. – the AIDAPerla turns around and begins to head toward location of overboard crew member which appears to be around 60 miles;
  • 10:45 a.m. – captain notifies passengers of the man overboard situation;
  • 12:39 p.m. – captain makes another announcement confirming the “man overboard” report and stating that they would be at the site where the crew member went overboard “in about an hour;”
  • 1:30 p.m. – the AIDAPerla arrives at the search area and begins search (at this point,it was 4 & 1/2 hours after the ship reported the crew member missing to the U.K. authorities);
  • 6:23 p.m. – the captain announced that the Coast Guard had called off the search but the AIDAPerla sailed in the search area for about 1 hour.

The guest responded to these questions on Twitter:

The chronology of events belies AIDA’s press statement that “the captain and crew of AIDAperla immediately initiated all necessary rescue measures in close coordination with the local authorities.” In truth, the captain and crew had no idea that a crew member went overboard and the cruise ship continued to sail on it route for four and one-half hours until the crew member was reported missing. Even after reporting to the U.K. authorities that a crew member was missing from the ship, the captain still delayed turning the ship around to sail back to the search area for over an hour.

This case has all of the characteristics of another cruise ship which has not been equipped with a state of the art MOB system. Technology has long existed where the bridge can be automatically and immediately notified by motion detection systems that a person has gone overboard. The system then can verify and videotape that a person has gone over the railings and can even track the person in the water at night via radar and infrared technology.

Without such readily available systems, there inevitably are delays where the guest or ship employee is eventually noticed missing and the ship spends a couple of hours searching on the ship before it is belatedly discovered (typically after looking through surveillance video) that the person has gone over the railing. Delayed search and rescue efforts are usually deadly.

To our knowledge, not a single Carnival Corporation owned cruise ship has invested in the lifesaving MOB technology.

According to cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein, there have been at least 394 people (guests and crew members) who have gone overboard from cruise ships in the last two and a half decades.

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October 27, 2023 Update:

Image credit: AIDAPerla – Philippe Alès – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons /wikimedia; AIS tracking image via @GuenniNMS