Are MOB’s Preventable?

Michael Ehline a the passenger arrivial and departure

Waiting as a sword and shield for those suffering sexual attacks on a cruise ship at the Port of Long Beach

As some of our readers are aware, I just returned from Washington DC lobbying congress to force the cruise lines to abide by existing law. What do I mean? Well, existing law requires that cruise lines doing business in the US, have a man overboard, or “MOB” system to warn and even prevent MOB’s and there tragic aftermaths. So first, I must say, when I saw this story on the news the other day, I was floored.

The Latest Man Overboard Case

The FBI is now investigating the death of an elderly woman aboard a cruise ship in route to San Diego. The woman boarded a Holland America cruise ship at San Francisco with other passengers for a seven day Mexico cruise. The vessel has been identified as the MSVeendam, though the identity of the elderly woman has not been released by authorities.

According to officials at the time the woman went overboard there were approximately 2,000 passengers and crew-members aboard the MS Veedam, with many of the passengers celebrating the New Year. One passenger, Patricia English said that she knew something was seriously wrong, when she could hear the ship stopping and turning about. She said she also heard a loud alarm and saw a bright flare.

Gary Schmidt, another passenger said that he heard an announcement that shocked him, with the captain of the ship saying “man overboard, crew-members go to your stations” According to English there were other announcements, including one that told passengers to move away from the lifeboats, because they were going to put some of them into the water to look for the person who had gone overboard.

Then the captain told passengers to return to their cabins so that a head count could be taken, according to Schmidt. At the time the elderly woman went overboard the ship was about 300 miles southwest of San Diego.
Another passenger saw the woman who is only identified as an 88 year old Canadian climb out on her balcony and leaned over the rail.

The passenger who saw the event did not want to be identified, but wanted to tell what she saw, after the San Diego Medical Examiner ruled the 88 year old woman’s death a suicide. But the witness passenger said that after the woman leaned over the rail to jump, she turned around to go back inside. She then slipped and fell from the balcony. So I am not really concerned with the medical examiner.  The witness seems to say that the woman simply slipped when she was returning from the railing.

In any event, the woman was found by rescuers and pulled from the water, but they had found her too late to revive her. According to the passengers, the ship continued to San Diego, which was approximately another two hours.
According to Holland America officials, they are assisting the family of the 88 year old Canadian woman during this difficult time.

We presume there was no warning system in place, as there was no mention of it in the article.  Typically, the witness will alert someone on the ship, and then the captain will alert the crew, and halt the cruise.  But an early warning MOB system shaves precious minutes from this procedure and it is the law.

Why Don’t Cruise Lines Have MOB When the Law Says They Must?

Great question. Well, based upon our research, the cruise lines believe that the technology does not exist, or that it is being “tested”, whatever that means.  No really, here are their quotes. We will let you decide if they are being honest or not.

Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act calls for ships to be outfitted with technology that can be used for capturing images of passengers or detecting passengers who have fallen overboard, to the extent that such technology is available. The law went into effect three years ago, he says, and yet the systems are not in place.

“I don’t think the technology exists,” Maltzman says. “There are exterior cameras on ships, and in some instances they have documented situations when someone has jumped overboard or fallen overboard. I think it is going to be difficult to have an electronic device that’s going to figure out every time that happens and not be triggered when a seagull flies by the detector or a large wave splashes up the side of the ship.” [Emphasis.] (Source ABA Journal.)

One can see above, a cruise ship industry defense attorney, Mr. Maltzman, says he does not even know if the technology exists. Let’s put this in perspective. The law requiring MOB safety systems  was passed in 2010, and it is now 2014, and there are still no MOB system in place on most cruise ships who do business in the USA. And once again, in a prestigious ABA Journal article, Maltzman says “I don’t think the technology exists.” But wait, there’s more to this tale.

Contrary to the Above Comments by a Prominent Cruise Industry Defense Attorney, At Least One Major Cruise Industry Advocacy Group ADMITS that MOB Technology Exists, But They Are “Conducting Trials”

In an excellent article located here:

The Cruise Lines International Association said in a statement, “..the industry continues to evaluate, test and conduct trials…” to figure out which one works best at sea. [Emphasis.]

Rather than try and figure out who is telling the truth, let’s look at what easily available public information says regarding to availability of Man Overboard Detection Systems in the U.S. for large vessels. A little clue first.The technology has existed for a long time.

 The Inventor of the Man Overboard Detection System Says The Technology Has Existed for Years and IS Already in Use On Many Other Vessels

This will probably blow your mind, but all the above statements [most people might call these lies] by vaunted cruise industry representatives are blown out of the water (excuse the pun), by the stunning comments of a former Coast Guard engineer.

…former Coast Guard Engineer Dave Leone said, the technology has been around for years.  He developed it. “This is instant, the moment it senses mass coming down it sets off the alarm instantly,” said Leone. Leone said each one of the overboard sensors he developed in 2010 is equipped with two lasers and sets off an alarm when someone falls into the water. “I’m baffled by it,” [referring to the excuses made by the industry as to why it is not in place] said Leone. [Emphasis.] (Source.)

You can vote with your feet if you are in the same disbelief as me. The Ehline Law Firm represents and advocates on behalf of cruise victims, and we want to give a shout out to Eric Rappe and Kendall Carver for their steadfast commitment in fighting for the rights of the downtrodden and voiceless cruise victims. In closing, I know for a fact, that there are many other things that can be done to keep people from falling overboard. Higher guard rails and balcony rails, proper no slip floors, taking ownership of the fact the passengers, many of them are being fed unlimited, and free flowing amounts alcohol, etc.

Last but not least, we can never forget that real people are being harmed by the failure of the cruise industry to take precautions, many of them already mandated by law. This editorial was written in loving memory of Jason Rappe, may he rest in peace.


Elderly passenger on cruise ship falls overboard:

Man Overboard Maritime Early Detection Systems (MEDSTM):

On-Water Visibility Study: Determining the most visible colour that can be worn by floating subjects: