I’ll be the first to agree that there’s a whole lot of room for improvement regarding MOB recovery for commercial vessels, whether it’s a member of the crew or someone else. But those are issues mostly of the vessel’s equipment, or the lack thereof. The IMO, the USCG, and the other national marine safety agencies have never pushed much, if at all, on this particular issue. They should and it’s an embarrassment that they haven’t.
But that has nothing to do with the crews of the merchant ships / boats themselves. We are, in general, poorly equipped and not well prepared personnel-wise for responding to the circumstances you were in. That’s just a fact.
Search and rescue is an acquired skill, requiring task-specific equipment and training, that must be regularity exercised to remain effective. It also entails elevated risk that can’t usually be accurately assessed, That just doesn’t jive with the worldwide vampire squid-economy we have to operate in. If the equipment isn’t legally mandated it will probably never be seen, and the USCG’s approval system is stifling for new innovative equipment to break into the marketplace. The design & construction of ships and boats needn’t take into account the possible need for reasonably-safe and effective MOB recovery, so they generally don’t. I wish things were different, but they’re not. It’s just not important enough to enough people, or the right people.
Could it be better? Of course! Things like the Jason’s Cradle…
…have been around for quite a while. But they’re not required and therefore uncommon at best.
Same for the Personal Retriever Disk by Life Safer…
It’s a far superior choice as a throwable rescue device compared to regular life rings, which are typically marginal at best and often dangerous when they’re not simply ineffective.
There are other items in existence that are better than the regulatory minimums, but few companies will ever go much above those minimums. For things to change for the better would require that the bar be raised. There is great resistance to that happening, and always has been. All safety regulations, in all forms of human endeavor, are written in many gallons of blood.
You should just be happy that none of you and your wife’s got used in this case. If you want to bark up a tree where it might have the remote possibility to do a little good, go pester your Congress Critters about this. It probably won’t change anything but at least there’s a chance.