Just when it seems as though safety across the cruise ships could not get any worse, the industry has proven that it can. Two passengers onboard two completely separate vessels have been reported missing the same day.
The most recent incident took place in Jamaica yesterday. Authorities are searching for a missing cruise ship passenger from West Palm Beach, FL who has not been seen in over 24 hours. The passenger, 22-year-old Jerome Cunningham, disembarked at the Ocho Rios Pier in Jamaica and has not been seen or heard from since. Police are asking anyone with information on Cunningham’s whereabouts to contact the Ocho Rios Police or other emergency authorities regarding the matter.
This report was released just a few hours ago by a local Jamaican newspaper. The name of the cruise ship wasn’t even provided, which goes to show just how far the cruise industry goes to keep accidents – especially serious ones involving missing passengers – from the public eye.
As Jamaican authorities search for Cunningham, investigators in New Zealand are looking into another cruise ship passenger disappearance involving a Celebrity Cruises vessel. The Celebrity Solstice left Port Chalmers at around 7 p.m. local time yesterday sans one male passenger.
According to Senior Sergeant Kelvin Lloyd, authorities have been notified about the missing person, and reports that the traveler’s belongings were all left onboard, including his passport. But while cruise ships are responsible, under International Maritime Law, to thoroughly conduct a search and rescue mission when a passenger or crewmember is reported missing, the Solstice set sail toward its next port of call, Akaroa, where it was scheduled to dock this morning.
”We are hopeful he will make contact with us, or the boat,” said Sgt. Lloyd. ”The longer he doesn’t make contact, the more the concern will grow.”
No other information was provided about the missing Celebrity Solstice passenger. We don’t even know the victim’s age, nationality or whether he was traveling with anyone.
Unfortunately, passengers and crewmembers disappear from cruise ship vessels on the high seas more often than anyone would believe. The exact number of victims is unknown, because cruise companies do not reveal this information to the public. Because the principle authority involved in the investigation must be the country whose flag the vessel flies, we rarely hear about the full details of a missing person on the high seas here in the United States, and it can be months or even years before the victim’s loved ones obtain any information themselves. Obtaining information regarding a cruise ship accident or crime can be an uphill battle, especially when dealing with foreign governments who are not very keen on releasing any information.
However, the cruise line itself is charged with conducting a reasonable search and rescue once a passenger or crewmember is reported missing, and if the victim is not immediately found onboard the vessel, then the ship’s operators must return to location at sea where the victim was last seen.
There have been times in which people have fallen overboard from cruise ships but have been rescued and survived. The key is making sure the search is performed as quickly as possible. Every second counts when rescuing someone who has gone overboard, and if cruise lines delay in executing the search, the victim may suffer extensive injuries or may even be killed.
Not all missing cruise ship victims go overboard, however. There are times in which passengers and crewmembers disappear while in a foreign port.
Two years ago, Disney Wonder crewmember Rebecca Coriam disappeared from the vessel as it sailed off the coast of Mexico. Coriam never disembarked and her parents believe she was kidnapped from the ship. However, it has been a nightmare for the Coriam family to obtain any information from the cruise line.
“The way they have treated us has been a nightmare,” said Rebecca’s mother, Ann Coriam.” We have been left in the dark since this happened.”
Coriam’s parents say her credit card was used just days after she disappeared, but two years later, the investigation has come up empty-handed.
For Coriam, the investigation process is even lengthier because both Interpol and Bahamas Maritime Authority are involved. The Disney Wonder is registered in the Bahamas, so the main investigative agency is the Bahamian Maritime Authority. However, because Coriam was a British citizen, the FBI in the U.S. is not involved – despite the fact that the vessel sails out of a U.S. port. The British investigative agency Interpol has been working on the case, but so far, neither of these two agencies has uncovered – or chosen to release – any information regarding Coriam’s disappearance.
But the question still remains: If cruise ships have security cameras and security personnel allegedly monitoring vessels to protect those onboard, how could these incidents continue to happen?
The failure to perform a reasonable search and rescue can leave a cruise ship company to be held liable for the disappearance of the person. While it can be near impossible to obtain any information regarding a cruise ship disappearance individually, victims’ loved ones have a right to turn to a maritime accident lawyer for assistance in filing a case against the line and obtaining justice for their pain and suffering.
Ocean – xipx.deviantart.com
Missing person silhouette – m.jamaicaobserver.com