Simon Calder warns Britons about Christmas flights
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Between 2000 and 2016, 270 people went overboard on a cruise ship, according to statistics from Cruise Junkie. There were 26 reported incidents in 2019 before the pandemic and the highest recorded number was 27 people in 2015.
A person’s chances of survival greatly depend on the weather conditions, the location and the time of day.
In some cases a ship can take up to a mile to stop or people may not even realise until the ship reaches the next port.
But if a ship has an efficient man overboard system in place, a person can have a much better chance of being safely rescued.
Jim Walker is a maritime lawyer who represents passengers and crew members who were injured or assaulted on cruise ships around the world.
He told Express.co.uk that the cruise industry had been “largely indifferent to implementing man overboard systems.”
Jim said: “In my view these are very effective systems. Typically if you look at overboard incidents they generally happen very late at night or very early in the morning.
“With the system, if a person goes over the rails, a signal is sent to the bridge, there will be flashing lights and sound, and they can use radar technology to track the person in the water. Even at nighttime, it’s remarkable.
“Of course, the sooner you realise somehow has gone overboard, the quicker the rescue will be and the greater likelihood there will be a successful rescue.”
Some cruise lines, including Disney Cruise Line, have a man overboard system in place and crew are automatically alerted if someone falls off the ship.
But according to Jim, Disney is one of the cruise lines where people are least likely to be at risk from falling as it predominantly attracts families.
He said: “You have to categorise the people going overboard into two categories of crew members and guests.
“Around nine times out of 10 with a crew member, it’s suicide. That’s not the case with the guests.
“Typically they’re intoxicated. There’s a sick dynamic where the cruise lines where people are most likely to be intoxicated are the ones least likely to install man overboard systems.
“People are buying drinks all day on all-you-can-drink deals or maybe there’s a 15-drink limit which is really no limit at all.
“There’s a high level of correlation between the number of people intoxicated and the number of people who go overboard from ships.”
Jim believes there’s a lack of accountability when it comes to overboard deaths on cruise ships.
He told Express.co.uk: “Cruise lines might say ‘these people were acting recklessly’ but there’s this blame game where they blame their own customers for being intoxicated by buying alcohol on the ship.”
Families of those who have gone overboard are often entitled to very little legal recourse as there may not be much evidence of what happened.
Jim said: “When someone goes missing, it can be extremely unlikely they’ll ever be found. A lot of cases could accurately be called mysteries. There is foul play at sea.
“There’s no records or videotapes of what happened. A lot of the time people won’t even realise someone has gone overboard until the ship gets into the next port.
“The cruise line will have a look to see if they can find some evidence but sometimes there is none.
“I think it’s crazy. You can’t imagine any hotel or travel industry where 25 people just disappeared and nothing happened.”
If you have been affected by suicide or need to talk, you can contact Samaritans by free phone call on 116 123 or via their website.
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