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

Cruise List broke a story today about a power outage which occurred on Holland America Line’s  Statendam cruise ship last Thursday. 

The Cruise List blog explains that last Thursday evening his proprietary application which searches for cruise information on Twitter picked up a tweet about a “fuel pump explosion” that caused a “two hour Power Outage on the Statendam.”  He re-tweeted it but later deleted it when he received a direct message from the person originally tweeting the information, begging him to delete it for Cruise Ship Power Outagereasons not explained (he sounds a lot nicer than me).

Cruise List then left a post on Cruise Critic asking if anyone knew about an incident on the Statendam. Yes, several passengers responded – the cruise ship indeed "lost all power and were serving cheese sandwiches in the main dining room."

This incident seems to have passed without much consequence other than the inconvenience of cheese sandwiches. But the Statendam is almost two decades old – it is one of the older ships in the modern cruise line industry.

As the last couple of years have demonstrated, power failures on cruise ship are a very serious matter. Engine room fires and explosions which disable cruise ships, for a few hours or to the point that the ship is disabled at sea, are hardly rare. Consider these incidents in the last three years:

  • The Sun Princess lost power earlier this month;
  • The Costa Allegra lost all power off the coast of southern Africa earlier this year and had to be towed back to a port;
  • The M/V Plancius adventure cruise ship lost power and was stranded in the South Atlantic;
  • The Azamara Quest lost most of its power this year following an engine room fire near Bornea;
  • The Cunard QM2 suffered what is described as a catastrophic explosion and lost power on the high seas;
  • The MSC Opera lost power in the Baltic Sea, with passengers describing the ordeal as "shocking, scary, with dark hallways and backed up toilets," according to the BBC.
  • The Norwegian Dawn lost power in the Caribbean; and
  • The most famous recent power failure occurred aboard the Carnival Splendor. The U.S.S. Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier had to send helicopters to drop relief food to the cruise ship and a fleet of tug boats had to push and pull the Splendor to San Diego for extensive repairs.  

Carnival Splendor Cruise Ship Stranded - Power OutageThe cruise industry tries to keep explosions and power outages quiet, to avoid images like the Carnival Splendor cruise ship (right) stranded at sea or videos like this.  

The Statendam captain’s blog mentions nothing about the power outage. I’m sure that that’s not a reflection of him as much as a corporate policy prohibiting any mention of something like this.

It’s important for the cruise community to keep an eye out for potential safety issues that the cruise lines would prefer you not know.

Hats off to Cruise List, which states that it "was created as a place where you could go to see what was going on aboard ships without a sales pitch."