A Disney cruise ship’s dramatic rescue of a Royal Caribbean passenger after he fell overboard apparently unnoticed has raised questions as to whether cruise ships have adequate technology to detect when someone goes overboard.
Events unfolded Thursday morning last week when someone aboard the Disney Magic spotted the passenger from Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas in the water as the Magic was approaching Cozumel, Mexico.
Disney Cruise Line credited a combination of passengers and crew from the Magic with spotting the man in the water, lowering a lifeboat, and getting him aboard the Magic, according to a USA Today report.
The lucky man, a 22-year-old US citizen, was taken to a local hospital and was said to be in good condition before he was flown back to the United States.
Scott Sanders, founder of The Disney Cruise Line Blog, which is not affiliated with Disney, said such a rescue at sea by the Magic crew of the Oasis of the Seas passenger is unusual.
“It’s pretty darn fortunate that they were sailing in the vicinity,” Sanders commented.
According to CNN, Royal Caribbean closed-circuit TV video showed the man was alone on the Oasis ship Deck 5 when he went overboard at 6:07 a.m.
“There were no other guests or crew around at the time,” Cynthia Martinez, a Royal Caribbean spokeswoman, was quoted as saying.
CNN’s request for the video was reportedly denied.
Oasis of the Seas’ safety features are said to include a minimum safety railing of 42 inches and more than 1,200 security cameras.
But Jim Walker, a maritime attorney who reported on the incident on his Cruise Law News website, said the case points out the need for cruise ships to have better monitoring systems for detecting when someone falls off or jumps from a ship.
Cruise lines generally have been hesitant to discuss such systems they may have in place or have planned for their ships, Walker noted.
He said systems he would support include motion sensors and thermal detection systems that would indicate if someone goes overboard. He favors linking such systems to an alarm notification to ship crew so that an immediate search-and-rescue operation could begin.
The US Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act requires large passenger ships to “integrate 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.”
Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas is one of the world’s largest cruise ships, with accommodation for about 6,360 persons. The vessel, which is based at Port Everglades near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was on a seven-night cruise to the Western Caribbean at the time of the incident.