Alcohol a common factor in man overboard incidents, says cruise industry expert: ‘It’s a problem that’s waiting to happen’

  • A man who spent hours floating on the water after falling overboard from a cruise ship has been rescued in a rare success story.
  • A cruise industry expert told Insider that alcohol is a common factor in man overboard incidents.
  • “Alcohol is a major source of revenue for cruise ships,” Ross Klein said. “Will not go away”.

the probability of going falling overboard on a commercial cruise ship is extremely rare – industry data suggests that the chances of stumbling into open water are less than 1 in a million.

However, the statistics did not stop James Grimes, 28, from having to stay afloat for hours after falling overboard on the Carnival Valor at the end of last month.

Grimes’ thrilling story of survival, in which he counted eating bamboo and fighting jellyfish in shark infested waters of the Gulf of Mexico, was the rare sea rescue with a happy ending.

Days after the coast guard rescued Grimes after her harrowing time in open water, she said: “Good morning america“He doesn’t remember much about the circumstances that led to his downfall. He acknowledged having a few drinks the night he crashed, but said he wasn’t drunk. Grimes did not respond to Insider’s requests for comment.

A Carnival spokesperson told Insider last week that the “only way” to go overboard is to “climb up and over the safety barriers.”

Whether or not it was a contributing factor in Grimes’ ordeal, alcohol is a common element in many shipboard incidents, said Ross Klein, an expert on the international cruise industry and a professor of social work at the University of Newfoundland Memorial in Canada.

“Often they involve intoxication in one form or another,” said Klein, who also has a website on cruise ship accidents and incidents. “A common thread would be that the person who has gone overboard is drunk.”

Many major cruise lines offer unlimited booze packages that encourage passengers to drink to excess, Klein said. After a night of heavy drinking, a person may be more inclined to engage in risky and reckless behavior, such as climbing on or over the boat’s safety rails. Drunkenness can also increase the likelihood of an untimely fall.

“It’s a problem waiting to happen,” Klein said.

But the prevalence of alcohol aboard most ships is unlikely to change anytime soon, according to the researcher.

“Alcohol is a major source of revenue for cruise ships,” he said. “It’s not going away. The issue is whether the service is responsible and how often people are served more than they should.”

Brian Salerno, senior vice president of global maritime policy at Cruise Lines International Association, told Insider that bartenders on cruise ships are trained to pay close attention to passenger behavior.

“Someone who runs a bar on land is generally trained to cut someone off if it seems like too much is going on,” he said. “That also happens on ships.”

Given the nebulous nature of many overboard incidents, Klein has recorded 11 suspicious incidents in 2022 so far, but he said there may be more going unreported: The industry doesn’t have hard data on how often alcohol is a factor in such episodes.

Alcohol is also a common factor in other incidents and crimes on board, Klein said. It is present in more than 50% of sexual assaults reported on cruise ships, according to Klein, and is also present in many cases of physical assault.

“It’s just that the human behavior that happens on ships is really similar to what happens on land,” Salerno added.

While the chances of falling overboard are slim, Klein said passengers still need to educate themselves about the inherent risks involved in taking a cruise.

“The problem is that passengers don’t realize both the degree to which this is a source of income and the risk they run as a result of excessive consumption,” he said.

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