Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Cruise Lines Taking Steps to Keep Pirates Away

A recent survey of major cruise lines shows that most cruise lines haven't drastically altered itineraries through the Gulf of Aden, the vital East African route between the Mediterranean and Arabian seas, however they are increasing piracy deterrence measures.

The ships that route through that area now have pirate-emergency drills for passengers and crew, that are just as routine as mandatory lifeboat drills. "All officers and crew are trained and drilled in piracy evasion and defense, and the anti-piracy measures are reviewed in a guest safety drill," said Tim Rubacky, communications director for Oceania and Regent Seven Seas. The Oceania Nautica, which managed to dodge a pirate attack last November, sailed through the area again May 2, this time following the protection path.

Attacks on cruise ships are rare, but two, the American-owned Oceania Nautica and the Italian-owned MSC Melody have been among those targeted by pirates in recent months. The Nautica was fired upon in November, but evaded capture by outrunning two pirate skiffs. In April, an Israeli security team aboard the MSC Melody scared off pirates after exchanging gunfire with them. No one was hurt in either incident. American-flagged cruise ships do not carry armed security personnel.

Twelve countries, including the U.S., have assigned warships in the area to create a maritime protection zone. This is all part of a support convoy system, that uses warships and helicopters to protect vessels by coordinating group transit through what has become known as "pirates' alley." Approximately 20,000 vessels go through the gulf area each year. Cruise ships or other vessels can make arrangements to join scheduled military-escorted passage by contacting the Maritime Security Centre's Horn of Africa website.

There are also several anti-piracy measures available, such as long-range acoustic devices, using additional lookouts, training crew to recognize vessels, training in evasive maneuvers and the use of heavy water hoses.


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