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In an incident today more common to fiction than reality, Seabourn Spirit was attacked at sea by two pirate boats wielding machine guns and rocket propelled grenades while cruising off the coast of Somalia in northeastern Africa.
According to a report from Cruise Critic member Norman J. Fisher, a passenger onboard the Seabourn Spirit when the incident occurred at about 5:30 a.m. local time, "the ship was hit by a large number of bullets and at least one rocket. One crew member was injured."
The pirates –- each of the two boats reportedly had four or five of them aboard –- were attempting to board Seabourn Spirit. In order to do so they fired shots into the ship. One crew member was, according to Fisher, injured by shrapnel. The captain otherwise refused to allow passengers to go above decks as the fear was that folks that were visible might well be shot.
In a bulletin appearing on CNN's Web site, Mike Rogers, another passenger onboard Seabourn Spirit, was quoted as saying "the captain tried to run one of the boats (about 25 feet long) over ... the captain said he was going to do anything to keep them from getting onboard."
Indeed, in a hasty statement issued by Miami-based Seabourn, it is noted that "the ship's crew immediately initiated a trained response and as a result of protective and evasive measures taken, the occupants of the small craft were unable to gain access to Seabourn Spirit. The ship has moved away from the boats and is now sailing from the area. All passengers and crew are safe."
Seabourn Spirit, carrying 151 passengers and 161 crew members, was on its way to Mombasa, the last stop on a 16 night cruise from Alexandria, Egypt. As a result of the incident, however, the ship sailed away from Africa and is now headed for an unplanned visit to the Seychelles where passengers will disembark.
While reports of pirates and banditry are more common than you’d think in waters off of Indonesia (and typically are directed towards cargo rather than cruise ships), the United Nations did warn last week that its World Food Programme, which was trying to deliver food to Somalia, had been frustrated all fall by hijackings that restricted its efforts and called the southern Somali coastline one of the world's most dangerous.
This incident is likely to have a chilling impact on cruises to this part of Africa. Folks who have booked trips there may want to check with cruise lines, such as Princess, Peter Deilmann and Silversea, which all plan to offer trips that call in this part of the continent, in the coming weeks regarding itinerary changes.