The truth about man overboard systems

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Despite the steady growth of the RCL fleet and the size of its ships in the last five years, the rate of man overboard (MOB) incidents has declined from 0.1767 per million available passenger cruise days (APCDs) in 2010 to 0.1205 per million APCDs in 2015, as of September 30.

“At the heart of overboard response is our absolute, 100 percent desire to know immediately when somebody goes overboard,” says Jennifer Love, RCL chief security officer and senior vice president for safety, environment and health. “That tends to get lost in some of the rhetoric.”

For example: Deck railings are at least 42-inches high, a measure already in place on all RCL ships when written into the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) of 2010 as a standard for the industry.

“When someone goes over they’re defeating our security measures,” said Love.

“How am I going to slip and fall over a railing that is well over my waist height? It isn’t going to happen.”

Although the CVSSA requires technology for capturing images of or detecting MOBs as they happen, it’s “to the extent that such technology is available.’’ And for now, according to Love and other industry experts, it is not available.

RCL ships currently use technology that captures images of MOBs, so it already is compliant with the act. What the industry awaits is a reliable method of detecting the incidents as they happen and immediately alerting the bridge.

Prospective vendors “all understand that what we’re looking for are better rates of false positives and false negatives,” Love says. “What we need to establish is what the acceptable rate is, and that hasn’t been done yet.”

That conundrum is at the center of one of the most controversial and emotional issues confronting the cruise industry today – how to address “man overboard” incidents at sea and the technology needed for automatically alerting a ship’s captain and crew to such an event. While RCL desires a better way to identify a person going overboard, to date, no man-overboard detection system has shown to perform reliably enough for wide-scale deployment.