A cruise passenger reportedly went overboard from the MSC Preziosa in the Caribbean several days ago, according to the France-Antilles newspaper.

The Martinique newspaper reports that a 69-year-old Dutch citizen was not located on the MSC Cruises ship when it arrived in Fort-de-France last Saturday, December 8th.

The last port before Martinique scheduled on the cruise was Philipsburg, St. Maarten on Friday, December 7th. The unidentified passenger was last seen Friday night on the balcony of their cabin by her husband.

The newspaper concluded that “most likely hypothesis would be a fall” from the cruise ship” estimated at 30 meters.

The ship left Fort-de-France at its scheduled departure time of 11:00 p.m. on Saturday.

A helicopter and Navy jet conducted a search for the woman after he was not located on the cruise ship on Saturday morning in Martinique. The search was called off on Sunday, December 9th following which transmissions of the missing passenger continued to be circulated to merchant ships in the area.

This appears to be another case where a cruise line failed to have an automatic man overboard system installed on the ship. Such systems automatically send a signal to the bridge when a person goes over the railing. The cruise ship can quickly try to locate and rescue the person using sophisticated motion detection, infrared and radar technology.

Numerous experts have recommended such state-of-the-art MOB systems like this and this. The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 requires such systems for cruise ships calling on U.S ports, to the extent that such technology if available.

The last man overboard occurred on November 22, 2018 and involved a Royal Caribbean crew member who apparently jumped from the Adventure of the Seas.

The majority of cruise lines, like Royal Caribbean, do not have such systems installed, claiming that the overboard detection technology is not reliable, as recently reported by the Miami Herald.

MSC Cruises, ironically, is one of the few cruise lines that has installed such technology on at least one cruise ship, the MSC Meraviglia.  MSC Cruises stated last year that it was planning to deploy similar systems across its fleet of cruise ships.

According to Seatrade Cruise News, MSC Cruises developed an “intelligent video capturing and analysis system” in collaboration with security technology experts, Bosch and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. 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%.”

Seatrade also explained that the data and images are analysed 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.

We have criticized MSC in the past because crew members and passengers have disappeared from ships without this type of technology.  Brazilian crew member Simone Scheuer Sousa disappeared from the MSC Musica last year. MSC’s untimely response to an overboard passenger early last year from the MSC Divina further demonstrated the need for an automatic man overboard system.

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein has estimated that, before this latest overboard, at least 322 people have gone overboard from cruise ship since 2000 and at least 22 people this year.

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

Photo credit: Neptuno1976 CC by SA 3.0 commons / wikipedia.

 

Yesterday, a local newspaper in Louisiana, KLFY, interviewed the mother of missing cruise passenger Juwanna Brooks who disappeared from the Carnival Triumph on January 21st, as the cruise ship was sailing toward Cozumel after departing from New Orleans the previous day.  

The cruise to Mexico, a Christmas present from her husband, was Ms. Brook’s first cruise.  

It is a painful interview to watch as the mother states that she hoped that her daughter, who she describes as a wonderful daughter, mother and grandmother, would be located and returned to her, "one way or the other."

She also described that social media accounts of her daughter’s disappearance was "downright cruel."

She is absolutely right about that. There are so many outrageously mean and nasty people on Facebook that the popular page on Facebook of Carnival cruise fans, called Carnival Cruisers…Past, Present, Future (CCPPF), states that it prohibits any "rude, hateful, snarky, ugly comments" about man overboard situations and removes such comments. Its posting about this latest overboard case welcomes "thoughts, prayers, and comfort for the family" and says:

"Sadly, there has been a man overboard ("man overboard" is a general term and not gender specific. In this case, the victim is a woman) on Carnival Triumph. When something like this happens , it tends to bring out the worst in some of our members and it is always shocking to me some of the mean cruel things people can say regarding such a tragedy regarding another human being."

I had to implement a similar policy on our Facebook page over the years after people who read this blog’s articles felt compelled to immediately insult the people who disappear during cruises as "stupid.*" 

People should not disappear from a cruise ship. We attended all of the hearings leading up to the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) and listened to members of Congress being educated by the grieving families of cruise passengers who were lost at sea, as well as the cruise industry trying to downplay the issue. The cruise line representatives accurately stated that many of the passengers intentionally went overboard and/or engaged in reckless conduct (i.e., intoxication) which often resulted in them going overboard. But at the end of the day, Congress passed legislation requiring cruise lines to install man overboard (MOB) technology, whenever feasible, to automatically detect whenever someone goes over the rails. MOB systems need to be installed whether the person goes overboard due to carelessness or even suicide. 

After all, the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as the coast guards of foreign countries, none of which are reimbursed by the cruise lines for any sevices provided to the public, spend millions of dollars responding to the dozens of over-boards which occur each year. Even if the person going overboard cannot be rescued, the recovery of their bodies is obviously important to their loved ones as part of the grieving process. Implementing MOB technology saves lifes, saves unnecessary search and rescue costs and is the right thing to do. 

Unfortunately, Carnival is one cruise line which refuses to install any of the available automatic man overboard systems which are available on the market. Maritime Executive has featured several articles from a highly reputable captain and maritime expert explaining that the MOB technology is successful and feasible.

Carnival has a reputation as providing affordable "fun ships" for the masses. But, in truth, it is a recalcitrant cruise line that has a history of non-compliance with the few U.S. laws which apply to the foreign-flagged cruise industry. In the last year, it was been fined $40,000,000 for lying to the U.S. Coast Guard regarding the widespread oil pollution from its fleet of cruise ships. More recently, Carnival was  caught engaging in deceitful conduct of trying to hide food and galley equipment from federal sanitation inspectors from the USPH. It’s the one cruise line which refuses to hire lifeguards, when other lines (Disney, Royal Caribbean and NCL) have finally done so. So perhaps it’s no surprise, when it come to the issue of its guests going overboard, that Carnival refuses to implement automatic man overboard technology ever since the 2010 CVSSA went into effect. 

It’s long overdue for Carnival to install available MOB technology on its fleet of cruise ships.

How long will the parents of missing passengers at sea have to hope that their loved ones will return from cruises "one way or the other?" 

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

*/  Our Facebook page states: "We welcome a difference of opinion. However, we do not tolerate hateful speech, ad hominen attacks, crude language, or personal insults. We do not permit the denigrating or mocking of people who disappear at sea or die in cruise swimming pool accidents."

 

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Merrian CarverKen Carver, Chairman of the International Cruise Victims Association (ICV), received the Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award from the U.S. Department of Justice during the annual National Crime Victims’ Service Awards ceremony on Friday in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Carver founded the ICV after his daughter disappeared from a Celebrity cruise ship during an Alaskan cruise in 2004. In 2006, he formed the ICV which is a grass roots, victim organization of families who have lost loved ones on the high seas or have been victims of sexual assaults and other crimes at sea.  

I remember when I first heard of Mr Carver. In 2005, the Arizona Central newspaper published an article titled Daughter Vanishes While on Alaskan Cruise by Robert Anglen about the disappearance of Mr. Carver’s daughter, Merrian Carver, from the Celebrity Mercury cruise ship.

The facts described in the article were bad enough: a Celebrity cabin attendant noticed that Mirrian was missing early in the cruise but when he alerted his supervisors, they told him not to worry about her. In the process, Merrian’s clothes and personal effects were quickly disposed of at the end of the cruise.  But the cover-up of the disappearance was even worse: neither the FBI nor local law enforcement officials were notified when there was no sighting of Merrian at the end of the cruise. Celebrity Cruises lied to Mr. Carver about its policies which required it to keep CCTV tapes for at least 30 days; when Mr. Carver asked for tapes within that period, Celebrity falsely told him that none existed. 

The cruise line gave Mr. Carver about as much attention and respect as someone complaining about losing a piece of luggage during a cruise. He told the Arizona Central: "We’ve learned that if something Ken Carver - International Cruise Victimshappens on a cruise, you are on your own," he says, choking back sobs. "No other parents should ever have to go through the crap we’ve been through. We don’t know if Merrian is alive or dead. We don’t know if there was an accident or murder or suicide or something else. . . . It is a very sad story."

After reading the blockbuster article about the terribly sad story, I felt compelled to read first-hand the facts alleged in a lawsuit which Mr. Carver was forced to file to try in Miami-Dade County to try and find out what happened to his daughter. I was also curious which law firm Celebrity Cruises retained to represent it in the lawsuit. 

The clerk requires anyone asking for a copy of a court pleading to fill out paperwork identifying the name and address of the person requesting the file. When I looked at the clerk’s forms, I could see the names of the defense lawyers who had previously requested the file and would be involved in the case.

Coincidentally, later in the week, I bumped into these lawyers on the sixth floor of the courthouse while attending a hearing in another case. I mentioned to them: so you guys will be defending the tragic case of the father whose daughter disappeared during the cruise to Alaska?" The lawyers first denied knowing anything about the case, but when I told them that  the clerk information confirmed their involvement, one of the lawyers remarked: that’s a bullshit case; we’re going to have it dismissed

I’ll remember this rude conversation and the defense lawyers’ smug attitude for the rest of my life. I recall thinking at the time that this was not going to end well for this cruise line or their heartless defense lawyers. 

Later, during one of many television specials about Merrian’s disappearance, one of the defense lawyers said to Chris Cuomo, who was working for ABC News at the time, Merrian probably committed suicide. Of course, there was absolutely no evidence of this, but this didn’t stop the defense lawyer from saying it. The smear tactic was clearly the result of the nasty attitude of the cruise line lawyers and their client. But it raised the obvious question that if it was somehow true that Merrian ended her own life, why wouldn’t the cruise line simply tell law enforcement and Mr. Carver and timely provide evidence supporting this conclusion? 

I’ll also never forget when I first met Mr. Carver. He attended the first Congressional hearing in Washington D.C. before the U.S. Senate on December 13, 2005, following the disappearance of George Smith III from the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas. I was representing Mr Smith’s wife at the hearing and was seeking information from an equally recalcitrant cruise line. Mr. Carver introduced himself at the hearing, smiled and asked me do you want to help me pass a cruise crime law? 

Quite frankly I didn’t know exactly what Mr Carver was talking about. I thought to myself that any kind of law requiring the cruise line to report crimes, an issue the cruise industry always sought to suppress, was unprecedented. 

But a month later Ms. Carver created the ICV. And with the assistance of hundreds of crime victims who joined the ICV, and the convening of several more Congressional hearings addressing crimes and disappearance on cruise ships, Mr. Carver was successful in having Congress enact the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010. His proposed legislation, requiring the disclosure of missing Ken Carver ICVpassengers, the reporting of crime on cruise ships, and the requirement for ships to be equipped with rape kits and anti-retorviral medications to automatic man overboard systems, passed the Senate and House on a nearly unanimous basis. 

Mr. Carver’s goals were to create transparency in crime and missing passenger reporting and install man overboard systems on cruise ships. The cruise lines fought back vigorously. The cruise industry treated Mr. Carver like a villain and essentially painted a bulls-eye on his back. The cruise lines spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying Congress to oppose Mr. Carver’s proposed legislation. But ultimately Mr. Carver prevailed.

Over the past dozen years, I’ve seen dozens of cruise executives and cruise line defense lawyers come and go – as well as PR crisis managers and lobbyists in the cruise industry trade organization. Many have left the industry. But Mr. Carver is still standing. Cruising is safer today because of him.

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NCL - Norwegian DawnSeveral people have informed us that a NCL crew member went overboard yesterday from the Norwegian Pearl  during a cruise returning from Alaska.

The Norwegian Pearl is on an eight day “Glacier Bay cruise” which started on September 4, 2016 and ends on September 11th, in Seattle.

The woman reportedly was employed for two contracts for NCL.

This evening, the Juneau Empire published an article saying that a passenger went overboard from the Norwegian Pearl cruise ship in the Lynn Canal, according to an Alaska State Trooper spokesman. I believe this account to be in error as several NCL crew members indicate that the woman was a crew member and not a passenger.

The Sitka Sentinel reported that the woman was reported missing from the Norwegian Pearl at 5:30 a.m. on Thursday when she was noticed to be absent from her cabin. NCL security personnel later looked at CCTV which revealed that she had gone overboard while the vessel was under-way.

The Coast Guard in Sitka launched a helicopter and the station in Juneau launched the 45-foot Coast Guard Cutter Liberty yesterday.  These searches were reportedly suspended today.

The woman’s Facebook page this evening has many photographs and comments posted from her friends commemorating her life. Her friends describe her as a loved, cheerful and vibrant young woman.

We are withholding publishing her name, job position and her nationality pending confirmation that her family is aware of the situation.

Other NCL crew members have disappeared from cruise ships in the past couple of years.

A woman went overboard several days ago from the Carnival Ecstasy as it was sailing near the Bahamas during its return cruise to Charleston, South Carolina. The U.S. Coast Guard just ended it’s search today after a considerable effort for the past two days, and after considerable publicity.

This is the 277th person to go overboard from a cruise ship since 2000, according to cruise expert professor Ross Klein.

September 10 2016 Update: NCL crew members says that according to the ship’s security officer, they were looking for her all over the cruise ship when she couldn’t be located in her cabin. NCL sent out the rescue boat to search for her.  She apparently left a note in her cabin.

Public media KTOO reports provides this additional information: “The 25-year-old woman, identified only as a Columbian national, disappeared from the vessel about 1:40 a.m. Thursday while it was in Lynn Canal between Funter Bay and Point Retreat. It’s not clear if the woman jumped or simply fell overboard. The woman was not discovered as missing until 5 a.m. Thursday morning as the Norwegian Pearl was approaching Glacier Bay. Alaska State Troopers are investigating the incident.”

Photo Credit: By Captain-tucker – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

This weekend will mark 10 years since George Smith disappeared from Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas in the early morning hours of July 5, 2005. 

Mr. Smith was on a honeymoon cruise with his newlywed bride, Jennifer Hagel, who we later represented on behalf of Mr. Smith’s estate against the cruise line over his disappearance.

I have written about this terrible tragedy many times, including writing a series of articles about some of George SmithCruise Mystery the details about the case. 

I have always thought that the case involved foul play, and that George Smith was tossed over-the-rails.

The case was mentioned routinely on television and cable news back in 2005-2006. We were interviewed on a regular basis. Royal Caribbean sent a slew of people to appear in the media like the former captain (whose opinions were ludicrous) as well as PR representatives, crisis communication experts and even the CEO of the cruise line. They tended to cast aspersions against Mr. Smith, or his bride, or both, or played dumb. They never ever produced videos in the cruise line’s possession. 

What Royal Caribbean didn’t disclose to the media back then was that it had a video recording of some of the other passengers who were last with Mr. Smith in his cabin early on the morning in question. After Mr. Smith’s disappearance, the men were recorded mocking Mr. Smith. One of them then said: "we gave that guy a paragliding lesson without a parachute." This video was in the possession of the cruise line by the end of the cruise and, later, in the possession of the FBI which did not disclose it to any of the family members. It eventually became known to the Smith family only around 7 years after the incident.

The greatest mystery about this cruise line crime case is not what happened to George Smith; it’s why the FBI shut its investigation down and why the Department of Justice didn’t arrest those responsible long ago.

What do you think of the Captain’s excuse that George Smith may have been smoking a cigar on the balcony and just lost his balance?

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

CBS is airing an episode on 48 Hours tomorrow night about the case. A preview is below:  

 

 

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. cruise shipping miamiReprehensibly, 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.

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

The family of George Smith announced today that the Connecticut FBI notified their family that it is closing its investigation into Mr. Smith’s George’s death aboard the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas.

Mr. Smith disappeared during his honeymoon cruise in July 2005 under mysterious circumstances while the Royal Caribbean ship was sailing to Kusadasi, Turkey.  

The Smith family said on their Facebook page that "we were told by the Connecticut FBI that there was not enough evidence to prove that George had been murdered and that his death may have been the result of an accident!"

The FBI has a dismal record solving crimes at sea. In my opinion there was nothing accidental about Mr. Smith’s disappearance.

The Smith family said that they intend to move the investigation into their son’s disappearance to another jurisdiction, such as New York. They are offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

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

Video Credit: CBS News / 48 Hours  

George Smith DisappearanceTomorrow will be the nine year anniversary of the disappearance of George Smith from the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas during his honeymoon cruise. 

Mr. Smith went overboard from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship on July 5, 2005 as the ship was sailing to Turkey.

Suspicions have focused on several men who were in Mr. Smith’s cabin before he went overboard, particularly after one of the men made incriminating statements. We have written many prior articles about the case which you can review here.

CBS will air an updated story of the efforts of Mr. Smith’s family tomorrow night on 48 HOURS.  A preview is below. 

The Smith family has recently announced a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for his disappearance. 

 

If you have information about who may have killed Mr. Smith, please consider using the following contact information:

1 (844) 651 1936 

georgesmithtipline@gmail.com

Justice for George

Dear Ms. Deeble.

Cruise and ferry executives have difficult jobs, I suspect. You have to effectively deal with labor disputes, increasing fuel costs, and price wars with your competitors in an increasing difficult economy. What a headache.

In addition to managing the financial pluses and minuses of your businesses, cruise executives like you also have to timely and effectively respond to public criticism when things go wrong on the high seas. But many maritime CEO’s, who are well educated and highly experienced in business and Helen Deeble P&O Ferriesaccounting matters, suffer from an inability to manage their company’s reputation when they face public scrutiny.

I know that you have faced tough economic times before while running your ferry business. At this time last year, you were finishing a major evaluation of P&O operations which addressed declining revenue and increasing costs facing your staff over 4,000 employees. P&O encountered stiff competition from rival ferry lines Danish-based DFDS Seaways and France’s MyFerryLink as well as the underwater train operators to France, in addition to generally tough economic times across Europe.  

It must be hard to be responsible for over 4,000 employees who depend on P&O to support their families. After prior evaluations over the years, I know that you had to axe thousands of ferry employees to maintain profitability for the corporation. It’s doubly hard when a U.K. company like yours goes head-to-head with well run companies like DFDS Seaways (those Danish are hard working and efficient people, aren’t they?)

Your other competitor, France’s Groupe Eurotunnel, has not only the underwater train system but they enjoy lower priced ferry fares with their MyFerryLink brand. This upsets me. I’m a fan of Winston Churchill and the U.K. battle against Germany from 1939 to 1945 still inspires me. So P&O having to compete with the French, who would be part of Germany but for the P&O FerriesU.K.’s sacrifice and courage, seems hardly fair. I am rooting for your U.K. ferry line to beat its overseas rivals. But I suppose that’s just my biased perspective.

Added to your difficult financial equation, I know that P&O received embarrassing treatment by the press in the U.K. last year after an internal company report concluded that exhausted cross-Channel P&O ferry workers suffering from sleep deprivation and stress presented a danger to their ships and passengers. The information from your internal report, based on a survey of 500 of your ferry workers measuring their hours of work, watch-keeping and fatigue, was leaked by a worker to a newspaper which published "Passengers at Risk Because of Tired Ferry Workers." Sometimes its hard to keep these type of things secret with all of the newspapers looking for a scoop. 

I am also not insensitive to the recent bad news when the British Competition Appellate Tribunal granted relief earlier this month to Groupe Eurotunnel, which had been hit with an antitrust ruling stopping it from also operating its MyFerryLink ferries between Calais and Dover. You got a ruling knocking them out of your ports for a while. Good for you! But the ruling was overturned which brings stiffer competition to P&O.

But the stiffest challenge you face is growing protests that your company treated the parents of ferry passenger Richard Fearnside shabbily after he disappeared from the Pride of Kent earlier this year. I was disturbed to read that your ferry lacked any closed circuit television cameras (CCTV) on its exterior passenger decks. Money’s tight I know, but no CCTV? And I was even more disturbed and angered when Richard’s mother, Marianne Fearnside, raised this issue of why-no-CCTV cameras in this day and age in a letter to you. You kicked the letter downstairs to your PR fellow Chris Laming, who rudely rebuffed her and, incredibly, dismissed her proposal as "not practical."

You may recall that this dismissive attitude has plagued P&O in the past. Over 190 passengers and crew were killed in 1987 when the ferry line considered it was not practical to install CCTV cameras or alarms to determine whether the Herald of Free Enterprise bow doors were closed. The ferry capsized after a crew member responsible for closing the doors was exhausted and fell asleep (a problem which continues today). I know you were not with P&O / Townsend Thoresen back then, but as a well educated professional I am sure you are more Richard Fearnside - Marianne Fearnsidefamiliar with this disaster than I. You understand that when you forget history, it repeats itself. 

I wonder what you think of Marianne Fearnside. I really do. You’re a mother of two boys, now men. You must love your children deeply. You must have thought, at least once, what if one of my boys disappeared from one of my ferries at sea, at night, into the dark and cold water, alone. How would I feel?  What would I do? You must have thought of these things, right?

I can tell you what I, as a father of two boys, think of Marianne. Unlike prior P&O victims understandably crippled by the loss of loved ones, Marianne Fearnside is a brave soul and a tough lady. She will not let her son’s voice fade away. It’s not easy, but she has taken her heart-felt campaign to improve safety on P&O ferries to the public. Initially dumbfounded and paralyzed, she has been vocal and full of action of late. She has found an audience and her cause has resonated with the public. Over 85,000 people have signed her petition to require P&O to install CCTV on its ferries. (This is a modest request considering that cruise ships based in the U.S. not only have hundreds of CCTV cameras but are required by U.S. law to install state-of-the-art automatic man overboard systems).         

It’s only a matter of time before a major newspaper in the U.K. digs into this appalling story and P&O’s tattered image is further sullied. No one wants to see a home-town U.K. company take such a hit. You have hard working staff who deserve better than go down with a ship sinking in the eyes of the public. But even former P&O ferry workers have signed Marianne’s petition and proclaimed to the public that it is unreasonable and irresponsible for P&O to refuse to install CCTV. They are saying George Smith - Royal Caribbeanwhat many of your tired staff are probably thinking.

Let me quickly tell you a few lessons from cruise CEO’s here in Miami, the cruise capital of the world, who have failed miserably handling public relations disasters. There are lessons to be learned.  

Cruise passenger George Smith disappeared in 2005 during his honeymoon cruise. When a passenger photographed a blood soaked awning on the ship, the story went viral. Royal Caribbean fought a war on the cable news for a year claiming that Mr. Smith was drunk and it could not have prevented his death. The cruise ship had no CCTV cameras or overboard systems. We represented Mr. Smith’s widow and appeared on FOX News, MSNBC, CNN and the major networks bickering with the cruise line’s PR representatives, safety managers and even the Chairman Richard Fain on Larry King Live. A Congressional hearing was convened about cruise passenger safety, followed by six other Congressional hearings in the House and Senate which continue today. It turned out that Mr. Smith didn’t just fall overboard as the cruise line said. He was likely thrown overboard by other Royal Caribbean passengers. The cruise lines were subsequently ordered not only to install CCTV cameras but automatic man overboard systems on all of their cruise ships, but not before the Miami-based cruise lines tarnished their image. 

Another lesson comes from the debacle of Carnival CEO Micky Arison who, by all accounts, acted callously after the Carnival owned Costa Concordia capsized off the coast of Italy and killed 32 passengers and crew and terrorized thousands. He was roundly criticized for his apparent indifference Costa Concordia to the disaster involving one of his over 100 cruise ships. But he didn’t seem to care. He continued to focus just on profits and losses (and his Miami Heat basketball team) and not the human suffering created by his irresponsible captain. As additional Carnival disasters and embarrassments (like the infamous Carnival poop cruise) unfolded, Arison stayed indifferent to the plight of his suffering cruise line guests. His once proud and popular cruise company became the laughing stock of late night comedians. When the Carnival earnings and stock flattened out, his board removed him as CEO. The new CEO has spent hundreds of million of dollars in safety improvements to the ships in the neglected fleet. 

How will you respond to the PR nightmare facing your company?  The P&O website is filled with thousands of well reasoned and succinctly written criticisms about the line’s perceived insensitivity and lack of ethics. Continuing to slough the matter off to your PR team will only make matters worse.

Now one other cruise CEO story to tell. Here’s a hint how to turn things around.

When the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Sea caught on fire earlier this year, the passengers faced a raging 2 hour fire after the automatic fire suppression system failed to operate. Royal Caribbean faced a major PR problem, especially coming on the heels of other well publicized Carnival mishaps. But unlike Carnival’s CEO Arison, Royal Caribbean’s CEO Adam Goldstein jumped on a jet to the Adam Goldstein Cruise Fire Bahamas where he quickly met up with the burned ship. I’m not a fan of Mr. Goldstein, but this time he was a man of action with the right attitude.  He was photographed inspecting the scene of the fire and discussing the fire while drinking iced tea with the passengers. He apologized profusely and promised improvements to his ships. The public quickly forgave the cruise line for the fire, and praised the cruise CEO for his quick action, transparency and concern for his guests.

The press is coming after you Ms. Deeble. The public outrage is growing. The nation is learning that other passengers and crew have disappeared off your ships. The time for mysteries is over. The Fearnside petition will shortly have over 100,000 signatures. Legislation requiring CCTV is inevitable.

How are you going to respond. Will you even respond?

My suggestion?   

You are the past President of the U.K. Chamber of Shipping. You’re highly respected and influential in your industry. Others will follow your lead. 

Its time to get out from behind the desk. Put your financial papers aside for a moment. Drive the short distance over to Marianne’s house. You both live in Kent. Invite yourself in for a cup of tea. No lawyers, just you and Marianne. Make a New Year’s promise to her to install CCTV on your ferries. Future passengers and your own crew deserve it. And bring your photographers too. The public will love the image of you doing the right thing, and saving your company in the process. 

Respectfully,

Jim Walker

Today, after a cruise passenger disappeared from the Princess cruise shipSun Princess, the cruise line admitted that "there is no CCTV footage of the man falling overboard" according to Cruise Critic.

How is this possible?

Sun PrincessOur U.S. Congress has already enacted legislation requiring that cruise ships implement state-of-the-art technologies to detect man-overboard situations. Perhaps the Sun Princess because it was operating in Australian waters didn’t bother to comply with U.S. standards.

But what is the excuse for not having a single image of the passenger going overboard?  

Cruise ships like the Sun Princess are money makers, collecting many millions of dollars every single cruise.

So why no CCTV?  Why no automated man-overboard alarms? The technologies are old school at this point.      

Why should there ever be a controversy regarding how a passenger or a crew member goes overboard on the high seas? 

 

Photo Credit: The Australian