MIAMI, Florida–In the most recently reported cruise ship disappearance, the first reported overboard passenger for the new year, MSC Divina cruise ship, a cruise ship owned and operated by MSC Cruises, announced that a 74-year-old French passenger was discovered missing. It was around 3 a.m. and the ship was just north of Puerto Rico at the time his wife last saw him. No eyewitnesses were reported to have seen the passenger go overboard. From early reports, it does not suggest that the cruise ship diverted and conducted a search and rescue effort in the waters for the passenger. However, it is reported that the missing passenger was reported to the U.S. Coast Guard, who then conducted a search and rescue effort. However, the exact timing of when the passenger went missing, when the cruise ship company notified the authorities, and when a search and rescue effort began, is unknown at this time.
The timing of an implementation of a search and rescue effort is critical when a passenger has fallen overboard on a cruise ship. There is a very small window of opportunity for the person to be rescued, and that window of opportunity closes each minute that passes. Often times, a passenger is reported overboard in international waters, and at night. This makes the window of opportunity even smaller.
In big cities, it is not uncommon to hear of a reported missing person. Over the years, missing passengers have also become much more common than ever imagined on cruises. Passengers going overboard on cruise ships have reached numbers that are now being documented so that the regulatory bodies can get a better idea of the problem, and so the public can become more aware of the dangers of falling overboard on a cruise.
The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, legislation enacted by President Obama in 2010, required the cruise ship industry to implement technology that could detect cruise ship passengers who have fallen off the ship. This technology is in fact available, including technology to make sure there are not false alarms that result in a cruise ship company diverting their ship for a search and rescue effort when no one in fact has gone overboard.This most recent 2017 incident aboard the MSC Divina cruise ship again calls into question why the cruise ship industry has not implemented the available technology that can be put on cruise ships to detect when a passenger has fallen overboard.
The cruise ship industry will state that the proper procedure is to first conduct an on board investigation if they are not sure a passenger in fact went overboard, and this may be true, depending on the circumstances. However, the fact remains that if a passenger did indeed go overboard, the precious time taken to investigate the entire ship will almost certainly result in an inability to have a successful search and rescue. This is the reason for the available technology, so that the cruise ship company can promptly confirm that a person did indeed go overboard, and search and rescue efforts can be immediately started. As there becomes an increased number of reported people going overboard on cruise ships, as evidenced by Professor Ross Klein’s statistics, which can be found on Cruise Junkie, cruise lines must be urged to comply with the laws and implement this available technology designed to save lives.
If you are among the millions of passengers who go on board cruise ships, I recommend that you urge your Congressman/Congresswoman to enforce this legislation, and to put the necessary teeth into the law to make sure the cruise ship industry finally implements this technology.