Navigating the High Seas
New Coast Guard rules redefine video requirements onboard cruise ships
- By Jumbi Edulbehram
- Aug 01, 2015
In recent years, the cruise industry has received
a lot of attention from the news media regarding
serious security issues onboard its vessels,
ranging from people falling overboard to sexual
assaults. These incidents caught the eyes of
Capitol Hill lawmakers, who have called a number
of hearings to address the concerns of the traveling
public. As a result, the U.S. Coast Guard issued a notice
of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register
earlier this year that details proposed changes to its
passenger vessel regulations under the Cruise Vessel
Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) of 2010.
In addition to amending rules pertaining to deck
rails, assault response and crime scene preservation
training are two of the rule changes that are directly
related to video surveillance. Specifically, the Coast
Guard will now require ships to have a surveillance
system in place for recording evidence of possible
crimes or unsafe behavior.
Under the proposed rule changes, any vessel carrying
at least 250 passengers that either embarks or
disembarks passengers on U.S. soil would be required
to maintain a fall-overboard image capture system, a
fall-overboard detection system or some combination
of both. According to the Coast Guard, this system
should also record the date and time of the incident to
aid search and rescue personnel and law enforcement.
While most, if not all, cruise ships already have
video cameras in place, the newly proposed rules stipulate
that the vessel’s surveillance system must cover
all areas of the ship where passengers or crewmembers
have common access. (This rule excludes staterooms
and crew cabins.) Also, the footage would have to be
retained for the duration of the voyage (7 days on average)
and for 7 days after the cruise has ended. If a
crime were reported during that 14-day period, the
video would have to be retained for another 120 days.
Surprisingly enough, despite the fact that the CVSSA
was passed five years ago, the Coast Guard does
not currently govern the use of surveillance onboard
cruise ships. With these proposed changes, however, the
agency will now have exact guidelines outlining what
to look for during routine inspections to ensure proper
video coverage and retention policies are in place.
POSE SIGNIFICANT HURDLES
The proposed rule changes are trying to get cruise
ship operators to be more proactive with incident detection.
While recent developments in video analytics
technology have the potential to enable operators to
be more proactive through the tracking of people’s
movements and behaviors, implementing these developments
on ships faces significant challenges.
First and foremost, as anyone involved in the deployment
of video analytics can attest, configuring cameras
that can alert to a person falling or jumping overboard
is fraught with technical hurdles. It is not going
to be as simple as installing a plug-and-play solution.
When the Coast Guard initially sought comments
in 2011 related to the CVSSA on the types of technology
available to detect people going overboard, a
cruise vessel trade association responded that while
solutions existed to capture images of persons that
have gone overboard, actual detection systems were
deemed unreliable in marine conditions. Even though
there have been great advances in analytics since that
time, the same argument holds true today.
There is not a single system available today that
can provide crew members with a reliable alert when
someone goes overboard. There are man-overboard
solutions on the market, but with the conditions that
exist in a maritime environment, there’s no technology
that provides the dependability that is needed.
For example, even a relatively simple analytic, such
as line crossing, only works reliably if the camera is
pointed directly at the line within the area being monitored.
On a cruise vessel, the majority of cameras are
focused on the decks where most people gather and
would thus be ineffective at performing this task.
Another problem that people commonly run into
is being able to differentiate between objects that are
thrown overboard as opposed to people going overboard.
The number of false alarms that would potentially
be generated would be substantial and more than
likely result in alarm fatigue from crewmembers that
may start to disregard them after a period of time.
NO ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL APPROACH
Aside from the reliability problems posed by man-overboard
solution, another point of contention raised by
stakeholders is that a cookie-cutter approach to video surveillance is simply not possible because each vessel
is unique. All ships are different not only in their size
and shape, but also in their culture—factors that affect
a ship’s risk profile.
Some of today’s largest cruise ships have the capacity
to carry more than 6,000 passengers and 2,000-
plus crewmembers. In many ways, security and surveillance
operations on these vessels are similar to
that of a small city. Security staff also has to oversee
security and loss prevention at retail shops, casinos,
restaurants, bars, theaters, swimming pools and many
other common areas throughout the ship. The same
threats that a store or casino would face on land also
apply in a maritime environment.
ACHIEVING 360-DEGREE AWARENESS
For this reason, it’s imperative that cruise lines implement
the right video surveillance technology, not
only to be in compliance with Coast Guard regulations
governing passenger and crew safety, but also
to protect themselves against litigation. Ships have
leveraged video surveillance for years, but they are
increasingly challenged to find the right combination
of cameras, and recording and management software
that will provide them with adequate coverage and
the ability to carry out investigations of onboard incidents
quicker and more effectively. One of the biggest
advances in video technology has been the advent of
360-degree megapixel cameras that enable end users
to cover a larger part of their environment with fewer
cameras, which has subsequently resulted in greater
Royal Caribbean International, which is one of the
largest cruise line operators in the world, has been one
of the leaders in leveraging panoramic cameras. In
2010, the cruise line deployed 360-degree cameras on
what are the two biggest cruise ships sailing the ocean
today: Allure of the Seas and its sister ship, Oasis of
On the Allure of the Seas, there are more than 300
IP panoramic cameras installed to monitor public
areas of the ship with multiple entrances. Using just
a single 360-degree camera mounted in a hallway on
the ship with elevators on opposite sides, the ship’s
security staff are able to see all traffic in the hallway,
in and out of the elevators and to and from the adjacent
stairway. Previously, this would have taken four
traditional cameras to cover.
Facing these new proposed regulations, cruise
lines are going to need complete field-of-view coverage.
The best way to accomplish that is with 360-degree
panoramic cameras, which give total situational
awareness. While the technology obviously provides a
ship’s crew with the ability to capture serious crimes
when they occur, it is also helpful in responding to
the numerous, more mundane incidents that occur
frequently on a cruise vessel, such as finding lost or
stolen property or tracking down a child who slipped
out of his or her parents’ view.
While the ways in which comprehensive video coverage
can be leveraged for more proactive versus reactive
incident response is yet to be seen, one thing is clear:
Authorities are going to take a much
harder look at the systems deployed
onboard cruise ships, and cruise operators
need to be prepared.
This article originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of Security Today.