Man Overboard Detection for Cruise Ship Safety

Most of us have gone on a cruise vacation or know of a close friend or relative who has done so.  Cruising is a popular vacation option enjoyed by families and individuals throughout the world.  What is not so well known, though, is the fact that man overboard events continue to be a common occurrence within the cruise industry.  Since 2005,

Man Falling off a cruise ship

On average, 22 people fall off cruise ships every year. However, few cruise ships in operation today, have any form of system to detect these “man-overboard” events.

  • 268 Man Overboard Events have been reported.
  • On average, 22 people fall off a cruise ship every year.
  • 86% of those victims do not survive, or are never found.

Man overboard events (MOB) can happen at any time during the day or night, in all types of weather and sea conditions, and from almost any location on the ship, ranging from a few tens of feet above the water to over 180 feet.  Falls from these heights can injure, render unconscious, or even kill the victim. Likewise, falls from ships operating along northern routes can expose the victim to extreme water temperatures, which can result in hypothermia and death.

Given these scenarios, one approach to increasing the survival rate of MOB events is to ensure accurate timely detection, followed by a rapid response protocol.  However, few cruise ships in operation today have any form of man overboard detection system.  Although they may have cameras and imaging systems to monitor activity on board the ship, these camera systems are primarily used for basic surveillance or evidential activities and are not designed to actively notify the ship’s crew in the instance of a man falling overboard.  In most cases, MOB events are reported by someone who happens to notice the fall, or by a member of the person’s party who reports the person missing.  This information must all be verified by the crew before taking action, which can take a considerable amount of time.


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