A twenty-three (23) year-old man from Scotland went overboard from the MSC Euribia last week. We first heard of the incident via an inquiry on Facebook asking for information about a young man missing from the MSC ship.

We subsequently learned that the full name of the passenger is “Liam Brody Wilkie Jones,” from Dundee, Scotland. One newspaper, Daily Record, referred to the young man as “Liam Jones.” Mr. Jones was traveling with family members and friends on the MSC cruise ship. He reportedly was last seen on deck by his sister after texting his wife back home complaining that he was feeling seasick, according to the Scottish Sun.

The circumstances of Mr. Jones going overboard are less than clear. Family members on Facebook commented that they were frustrated by the lack of communications by the cruise line and the fact that there was no timely announcement on the ship that a person went overboard. There reportedly is absolutely no indication that the ship took efforts to promptly conduct a search and rescue. The MSC cruise ship reportedly did not alter speed or direction, deploy rescue craft, or use spotlights.

This is the sixth person to go overboard from a MSC cruise ship in just the last four months. One passenger died from the fall, one survived and recovered, and three guests and one crew member disappeared in the water.

On February 14, 2024, a 72-year-old U.S. passenger died after falling from MSC’s World Europa into the Grand Harbour in Valletta, Malta.

On February 4, 2024, a passenger fell off the MSC Bellissima cruise ship traveling from Taiwan to Okinawa. According to the Taiwan News, the passenger was located, pulled from the water and then rushed to a hospital, where he was reported to be in good condition following medical treatment.

On December 30, 2023, a passenger went overboard from the MSC Preziosa after the MSC cruise ship left the port of Santos heading to New Year’s Eve festivities in Rio de Janeiro.

A passenger went overboard from the MSC Armonia during a transatlantic cruise to Brazil on December 15, 2023.

A crew member went overboard from the MSC Seascape in waters off of Puerto Rico on November 15, 2023.

According to cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein‘s definitive data, Mr. Jones is the 405th person who has gone overboard from a cruise ship since 2000.

Maritime law requires ship owners to immediately take steps to search and rescue passengers (or crew members) as soon as they realize that someone has gone overboard. As a practical matter, this typically involves turning the ship around to the area where the person left the ship. The crew will often deploy rescue lifecraft and utilize spotlights to search for the overboard person. The captain usually makes announcements that the ship is involved in looking for an overboard guest.

Sometimes the person is not witnessed going overboard. If the ship is not equipped with CCTV cameras which are actively monitored, the ship will continue to sail on until a family member on the ship or other traveling companion reports the person missing. The ship would then perform a cabin-by-cabin search on the ship for the person as well as manually look through CCTV images to see if they can locate the missing person and determine whether the person actually went overboard. Announcements will be made for the passenger to report to the guest relations desk.

In this case, it is highly unusual for a person to go overboard without any announcement being made.

In the U.S., there is a federal statute which requires that cruise ships install automatic man overboard (MOB) systems. These systems utilize motion detection, infra-red and radar technology to send an alarm to the bridge when someone goes over the rails and then track the person in the water even at night. Such systems lead to a much quicker detection and substantially increase the chances of a successful rescue. Otherwise, searching for an overboard person at night is like searching for a needle in a haystack.

There is no legal requirement outside of the U.S. for cruise ships to have such automatic detection systems installed. At least one MSC ship has the technology installed. In 2017, we reported that MSC Cruises announced that it had installed a state-of-the-art man overboard system on the MSC Meraviglia and was planning to deploy similar systems across its fleet of cruise ships.

Back in 2017, MSC Cruises indicated that it developed an “intelligent video capturing and analysis system” in collaboration with “security technology experts, Bosch and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.” The Swiss-based cruise line announced that it has tested the new man overboard system on the company’s newest ship which debuted in June (2017).  MSC reported that “through over 25,000 hours of video analysis, extensive software testing and continuous algorithmic updates, the system has now reached a confirmed accuracy level of 97%.”

MSC touted at the time that the MOB data and images are analyzed by two separate and independent image processing systems which significantly lower false alerts. “Once the alarm is activated in case of an overboard, an acoustic signal and light will notify the ship’s security officer, in a central security room, who can immediately retrieve and review the images and data and immediately notify the bridge to begin rescue efforts,” according to  Seatrade Cruise News. MSC Cruises announced MSC Meraviglia is “fitted with an integrated video surveillance system to optimize security monitoring on board the ship and which will allow, among other features, for the speediest intervention in the unlikely event a person or object falls overboard.”

In July 2019, a cruise guest in her 40’s went overboard from the MSC Meraviglia but was promptly rescued after the auto MOB alerted the crew that she went overboard.

Unfortunately, nearly five years later, it appears that MSC has still not installed this successful automatic MOB system on any of its twenty-one other cruise ships. This latest case seems to indicate that the MSC Euribia did not have a detection system installed.

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Image Credit: Liam Jones – Daily Record; MSC EuribaND44 CC BY-SA 4.0 commons / wikimedia.