MIAMI, Florida–There has been another reported incident of a passenger on a cruise ship falling overboard. This past Wednesday, a 23-year-old male passenger from Florida was reported to have fallen from the eighth deck of the Carnival Victory, a Carnival Cruise Line ship, at around 3 a.m. Since the cruise ship was close to the territorial waters of Cuba, Cuban authorities got involved in the rescue efforts, as well as the United States Coast Guard. After thoroughly searching the area for 16 hours, the Coast Guard called off the search for the missing passenger.
Unfortunately, we have reported about way too many instances of passengers falling overboard during a cruise vacation, specifically on a Carnival cruise ship. Just last month, a 24- year-old male fell off another Carnival ship. According to Ross Klein, almost half of the overboard incidents on cruises have actually occurred on Carnival ships.
Why do passengers continue falling overboard?
For many years, the cruise ship industry was not subject to mandatory reporting requirements regarding crimes or passengers falling overboard, and only had a system of voluntarily reporting incidents involving missing passengers. Then came the very well-known case of George Smith, who went overboard during his honeymoon cruise vacation. His case was believed to be a true crime, as many believe he was murdered on the ship and thrown overboard.The family of George Smith was relentless in pursuing answers to what happened, as the cruise ship company was not quick with responding to inquiries of his disappearance. In fact, many experts believe the cruise ship company tried to cover up the incident as best it could to avoid negative publicity. However, after many years of maintaining an open file, there was no conclusions reached by the FBI, and the case was closed without resolution.
Many believe the failure to do a proper and thorough investigation immediately after George Smith was declared missing resulted in the case being unsolved. The disappearance of George Smith brought attention to the fact that crimes and disappearances on board cruise ships were not rare occasions, as many believed, and were actually a serious problem that needed to be addressed through legislation. This prompted congressional hearings to be held addressing cruise ship safety and security.
As a result of these hearings, the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act(CVSSA) was signed into law by President Obama in 2010. Included in this act were requirements for the cruise ship industry to implement available technology to detect when a passenger goes overboard so that search and rescue efforts can be started immediately. Cruise ship companies typically respond to a person reported as missing by doing a complete search of the vessel, and then a review of surveillance video. Often the times this takes a long time and by the time the conclusion is reached that the passenger is no longer on board, or a passenger is observed on video falling overboard, it is too late to rescue the passenger. The surveillance cameras are not monitored in real time.
The available technology included in the CVSSA would sound an alarm if a passenger has fallen overboard, and an immediate search and rescue would then begin. Even though this technology is available, the cruise lines have still failed to implement it on their ships. In addition, the legislation also required increased surveillance cameras to be placed on the cruise ships. However, there has also been an undue delay in implementing these requirements. The increased surveillance cameras would not only assist in detecting a passenger falling overboard, but would also be used to help solve any alleged criminal activity such as a sexual assault on board ship. Sexual assaults on cruise ships have been prevalent over the years, and despite this, very rarely is an assailant prosecuted.
Why passengers fall overboard is difficult to conclude. Sometimes suicide is believed to be the reason. Other times, foul play can be involved. Often times, the over serving of alcohol is a contributing factor, as it is in many cases involving sexual assaults on board cruises. At this point, holding the cruise ship company civilly liable for missing passengers has been the main avenue of providing the industry with the incentive to implement safe policies and procedures on their ships.