Jan 10, 2019

Are MOB's Preventable?

Cruise ship on blue ocean.
Big ships like this are responsible for massive cruise ship accidents.

As some of our readers are aware, I just returned from Washington D.C., 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 U.S., have a man overboard, or "M.O.B." system to warn and even prevent M.O.B.'s and their tragic aftermaths. So first, I must say, when I saw this story on the news the other day, I was floored.

What is An M.O.B.?

M.O.B. is the acronym for "Man Overboard!" It has historical roots that are probably as old as travel at sea. So what does it mean, and why does it matter? What is means is someone (usually a crew member), while aboard a vessel at sea (historically a male), has fallen overboard off the side of the boat, or seagoing craft. The idea is to alert the ship's captain and another crewman that a comrade has fallen into the water.

Because of the necessity of each crewmember in the function of the ship, and the camaraderie, it remained vital to save the fallen crewman. But in time, sea, lake, and river travel became a commercial enterprise for non-crew members also. So whenever anyone falls overboard, the custom is to shout, "Man overboard!" This call is then repeated by all hands on deck who hears. So now, the captain can do a full stop and circle the vessel around the area based upon the first alert. Also, assuming the crew can see the person, the helmsman is charged with pointing his finger at the individual until a life preserver, or rope can be tossed to perform a rescue at sea. 

What Is The Latest Reported Man Overboard Case?

The F.B.I. is now investigating the death of a senior woman aboard a cruise ship en 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 authorities have not released the identity of the senior woman.

According to officials at the time the woman went overboard, there were approximately 2,000 passengers and crew members aboard the M.S. Veendam. Many of the passengers were 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 listened to a loud alarm and saw a bright flare.

Gary Schmidt, another passenger, said that he heard an announcement. And that proclamation had shocked him after the captain of the ship said:

"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.

The M.O.B. Alarm.

This alarm was because they were going to put some of them into the water to look for the person who had gone overboard they hollered that. Then the captain told passengers to return to their cabins so that headcount could be taken, according to Schmidt. At the time the senior woman went overboard, the ship was about 300 miles southwest of San Diego.

Another passenger saw the woman who was only identified as an 88-year-old Canadian climb out on her balcony and leaned over the rail. The passenger who witnessed the event did not want to be identified. But she 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 the woman had leaned over the rail to jump, but then she turned around to go back inside. Except she suddenly slipped and fell from the balcony. So I am not concerned with the medical examiner.

  • The witness seems to say that the woman quietly 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 seen 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 challenging 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 M.O.B. system shaves precious minutes from this procedure, and it is the law.

Why Don't Cruise Lines Have M.O.B.'s Installed When the Law Says They Must?

Great question. Well, based on our research, the cruise lines believe that the technology does not exist, or that it is "tested," whatever that means. Below are their quotes. We will let you decide if they are being honest or not.

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act calls for ships to become outfitted with technology that can become 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 M.O.B. safety systems was passed in 2010, and it is now 2014, and there is still no M.O.B. system in place on most cruise ships who do business in the U.S.A. And once again, in a prestigious A.B.A. 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 M.O.B. 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 readily available public information says regarding the 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 I.S. Already in Use On Many Other Vessels

This information 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.)

Vote With Your Feet?

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 shout out to Eric Rappe and Kendall Carver for their steadfast commitment to fighting for the rights of the oppressed and voiceless cruise victims.

In closing, I know for a fact that many other things 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 harmed by the cruise industry's failures. I wrote this in memory of Mr. Rappe. The F.B.I.'s responsibilities include why the M.O.B. systems are inactive.


Man Overboard Maritime Early Detection Systems (MEDSTM): http://vmag.cc/manoverboard/

On-Water Visibility Study: Determining the most visible color that can be worn by floating subjects: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/resources/about-us/research/on-water-visibility-study-determining-the-most-visible-colour-that-can-be-worn-by-floating-subjects?lang=en

Need to schedule an appointment for legal advice in a city near you? Reach out to a California personal injury lawyer specialist near you or another location or practice area as follows:

Torrance wrongful death lawyer, Torrance car accident lawyer, Best Torrance motorcycle accident lawyer.