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Norwegian Cruise Line passenger presumed dead after falling overboard — how common are these incidents?

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A 63-year-old Korean woman is presumed dead after she went overboard from a Norwegian Cruise Line NCLH, +0.04%  ship in the Mediterranean Sea this weekend.

The unnamed woman went missing Saturday morning as the Norwegian Epic traveled from Cannes, Frances, to Palma de Mallorca, Spain, the company told MarketWatch.

Passengers reported that Norwegian asked many of them to assist in looking for the woman, who was last seen wearing pink pajamas, according to U.K. publication The Sun. The search caused the ship to miss its planned call to Palma de Mallorca.

Norwegian has since called off the search for the woman. “As soon as the report was made, the authorities were notified and a search and rescue operation ensued,” a spokesman for Norwegian said. “The search ceased after several hours, and sadly, the guest was not found.” The ship has since returned to Barcelona as planned.

The Cruise Line Industry Association did not respond to requests for comment from MarketWatch.

Read more: The dark side of cruises

More than 300 people have gone overboard from cruise ships since the year 2000, according to data collected by Ross Klein, a professor in the School of Social Work at Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada, who tracks operational incidents involving cruise ships. Of those incidents, 26 involved Norwegian Cruise Line.

Incidents involving passengers going overboard are very rare, though, when compared to the vast number of people who travel on cruise ships each year. In 2018, just 26 people went overboard from cruise ships and passenger ferries, Klein found. Meanwhile, the cruise industry transported an estimated 28.2 million passengers that year, according to the Cruise Line Industry Association.

So far this year, nine people have gone overboard — three of whom survived, including two who were rescued.

Despite the small number of people who have gone overboard, some argue that lawmakers and the cruise industry could do more to protect passengers. Advocates for families whose loved ones have died or gone missing after going overboard are pushing for more stringent requirements regarding search and rescue procedures and the adoption of improved radar technology that could notify ship crew when someone goes overboard more quickly.

Shares of Norwegian are down 2.91% over the last three months. Comparatively, the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.10%  and S&P 500 SPX, -0.09%  are up 1.92% and 3.31% respectively over that same period of time.

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