Areas of Practice
Cruise Passenger Disappearances
Missing Persons At Sea Require A Search And Rescue
The disappearance of passengers and crew members from vessels on the high seas has occurred on numerous occasions. It is unknown how often or how many have disappeared since this information is not revealed by the shipping companies. Obtaining the information from governmental sources is not very easy since so many different countries can be involved. A report should go to the flag country for the vessel. Getting information from these countries can be difficult if not impossible.
Once a person is reported missing the shipping company has a duty to do a reasonable search and rescue. If the person is not quickly found on board the vessel, then the vessel should return to the last location at sea when the person was seen. As an example, if a passenger was last seen at 8 p.m., then the ship needs to back track to the location of the vessel at 8 p.m. to begin a search and rescue operation. Many times people who have fallen overboard have been rescued although many hours have gone by.
The failure to perform a reasonable search and rescue can render the shipping company liable for the disappearance of the person.