The recent attack by Somali pirates on Nautica, Oceania Cruises' luxury cruise ship -- as well as increased attacks on cargo ships in the area over the past few months -- has the whole world focused on the issue of piracy off the coast of Somalia. As a possible solution to the problem, the U.S. has just submitted a proposal to the U.N. Security Council that would authorize tracking of Somali pirates by sea, land or air.
What could this mean for global cruise travel? If passed, the resolution would allow all nations -- not just the U.S. -- to take action against pirates, should they get advance warning of a potential hijacking attempt. Currently, navy ships from countries in the area are not coordinated in their dealings with pirates, and captured pirates are often freed because it's unclear which country would have jurisdiction to prosecute them. The U.S. proposal would also allow international military units to pursue pirates in Somalia, not just in coastal waters, in an effort to preempt future attacks and undermine the growing piracy industry.
However, if you're considering a cruise that sails through the Gulf of Aden in 2009 or 2010 -- typically world cruise segments, Middle East and Africa itineraries or repositioning cruises through the Suez Canal -- you still have to take the possible threat of a pirate attack into account before you book. Even if the U.N. proposal passes, there is no guarantee that it will be successful. There are thousands of pirates in Somalia, and while the U.S. plan seeks their destruction or detainment, it doesn't offer an alternate income source for them -- the desperate residents of a chaotic country with a weak government. And even a reduction in the number of pirates, which will take time, won't make your cruise ship completely safe in the Gulf of Aden.
Other than Hapag-Lloyd, which flew passengers to Dubai -- rather than sailing them through the Gulf of Aden -- no other lines have announced (yet) that they will stop cruising this route. That means, until piracy is drastically curtailed in Somalia -- either through a U.N. plan of action, a strengthening of Somalia's government and infrastructure or some other means -- it's up to you to decide whether it's worth the risk to cruise this region.
Would you cruise through pirate-infested waters? Share your opinion on our boards.
--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor
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U.S. Proposes Stronger Measures to Stop Somali Piracy
December 11, 2008