Man Overboard – Technology Suppliers Are Not the Only Ones Taking Actions

Obama Signing Cruise Security ActThe marine industry, considered to be one of the most dangerous industries, has been innovating and implementing advanced state-of-the-art technologies to ensure safety of the people on board ships and vessels.  Ships are constantly subjected to environmental and weather changes, and climate and waves tend to become rough and hazardous as a ship enters deep waters. During these difficult times, there is a high chance that a person might fall overboard.  A man-overboard event might occur due to various causes, such as unexpected ship movement, a loss of balance, slippery deck floors, and in some cases, people might deliberately jump off the ship in an attempt to commit suicide.  Technology providers are actively developing and testing systems to aid in the detection and response to such events, but they are not the only institutions taking actions.

Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act

Key industry actions around MOB include those of the United States government, which formally identified the need for increased measures to detect MOB situations in 2010 when it released the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA).  The act applies to cruise ships carrying more than 250 passengers on international voyages in which passengers embark or disembark in any US port.  It calls for automatic man-overboard detection/monitoring systems within 18 months of the technology becoming available.  Since the first release of the act, several companies have stepped forward to prove their detection capabilities, prompting the current revision of the act, which will likely confirm the effectiveness of these MOB systems and mandate their use.

Cruise Lines

Cruise Ship SecurityIn response to these regulatory actions, as well as the general need for increased safety, various cruise lines are proactively testing the new technology to ensure they understand how to most effectively incorporate this technology as an integral part of their safety systems. This involves devising realistic test scenarios including life-like dummies (commonly referred to as OSCAR), testing in various environment conditions including rain, fog and high waves and subjecting the systems to normal crew and maintenance events that may occur on the exterior of the vessel, but don’t warrant a man overboard event.  These tests, occurring in both warm-water and cold-water routes, are instrumental in solidifying the technology and helping the cruise lines understand how to effectively incorporate the systems into existing safety protocol.

International Organization for Standardization

International standards for Man Overboard DetectionFinally, in an effort to aid cruise lines in their adoption of these technologies and provide a potential basis for adherence to regulatory guidance or mandates, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has begun the development of an international standard for these man-overboard systems (Ships and marine technology — Systems for the detection of persons while going overboard from ships – Man overboard detection).  The standard provides non-product specific guidelines for what should be included in a MOB system and how it should perform.  This standard, expected for formal release at the end of 2017, can be used as a reference for regulatory agencies and as guidance to cruise lines making decisions on purchases.

Other Actions

It is likely that these market actions will be the catalyst for other events, including the adoption of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act by other countries and the use of the ISO guidelines as the basis for the design of new ships and the selection of MOB system in retrofit situations.  Although primary movement is occurring in the cruise industry, the use of standards and push for enforcement around detecting a fall at sea will likely gain momentum in adjacent industries, including ferries, commercial shipping, military and ocean platforms.

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