Every cruise ship passenger's worst nightmare is the fear of falling or being pushed overboard. While the cruise industry likes to downplay the frequency of these events -- as well as their ability to prevent them, they seem to be happening far more often.
So far in the first two months of 2015 there have already been 3 reported cruise ship passengers who have gone overboard. In January 2015, a 22 year old male passenger on Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, fell overboard just off the coast of Mexico. The Oasis of the Seas, one of the world's biggest cruise ships, has the capacity to transport over 6,000 people. Miraculously, passengers and crew aboard Disney Cruise Lines Magic were able to identify and rescue the man.
A passenger apparently dove off the 13th deck of Princess Cruise's Sapphire Princess off the 13th; but was found after the ship's captain issued a "Man Overboard Alert."
In February, Carol Tremblay, a 66 year old Canadian went overboard from Celebrity Cruise Line's Constellation. Celebrity is owned and operated by Royal Caribbean. Mr. Tremblay's fall was captured by the ship's CCTV. The footage apparently showed him going overboard from the 11th deck (110 feet) at about 3:00 AM, 23 miles off Summerland Key -- near the Port of Key West.
Why do people fall off of cruise ships and can it be prevented? Alcohol, foul play or suicide are the most frequent causes; but often it is simply impossible to discover the truth -- because rarely are bodies recovered. Fortunately, technology exists to sound alerts when a passenger goes overboard. These systems called MOB Detection Devices, include motion sensors, thermal detection systems and drones that are designed to alert the ship's bridge; to stop the ship and immediately deploy search and rescue protocols.
Tragically, most major cruise lines, with the exception of Disney, refuse to employ these devices -- even though the 2010 ''Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010" or CVSSA -- requires them. Probably because the CVSSA enacted by President Obama, only requires cruise ships built after 2010 to integrate MOB technology as well as minimum height requirements for cabin safety railing. Under the CVSSA the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), and the Maritime Administration (MARAD) have established model training standards for crime prevention, detection, evidence preservation as well as the reporting of criminal activities aboard cruise ships.
According to CruiseJunkie.com, a website that tracks man overboard cases, there have been 243 cases since 1995. Over the last 15 years Carnival Cruise lines which includes their other brands, (Costa, Cunard, P&O, Princess and Holland America) have totaled 50 of MOB cases; that is more than any other cruise line. Perhaps Carnival's high MOB incident rate may be explained by the sheer number of vessels in its fleet as well their limited use of modern MOB detection systems.
If you are aboard a cruise ship and see a passenger or what looks to be a passenger go overboard- immediately notify the ship's security or bridge. As a lawyer who investigates cruise ship passenger accidents, It is my hope that all cruise lines will soon utilize technology to help detect and prevent another passenger overboard incident.