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What to know about man-overboard incidents

| Aug 17, 2020 | Maritime Law |

When people go on a cruise, they may sometimes worry about falling overboard and wonder how these incidents happen. 

People may fall overboard for many reasons. According to Conde Nast Traveler, people usually fall overboard because of reckless behavior. Drunk passengers may fail to take appropriate safety precautions. They might stand too close to safety barriers or on the railing of their balcony and fall after losing their footing. Additionally, someone may push another person overboard. There may not always be eyewitnesses present when people fall overboard. This makes it difficult to say exactly how all of these incidents occur. 

Are these incidents common?

Falling overboard is one of the least-likely events to happen on a cruise ship. In 2017, 11 people fell overboard between January and May. In 2016, there were 16 man-overboard incidents, and there were 27 incidents in 2015. Only about 1 in 1.3 million passengers on a cruise ship fall overboard. 

How do cruise ships handle the situation?

If people witness a man-overboard incident, they should notify a staff member. This official can contact the personnel on the bridge. Officials on the bridge typically put together an emergency crew who takes out a lifeboat to find the person. Additionally, staff members put life preservers in the water so they can indicate where the person fell. 

What should passengers do?

Although man-overboard incidents are not common, passengers may feel better if they know what to do. According to the National Park Service, people should stay calm once they are in the water. If they thrash around too much, people may tire themselves out. People may not always be able to get back onto the cruise ship by themselves. While they wait for rescuers, people should float. They may want to hug their knees to their chest to help them conserve energy.