Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung told German newspaper Bild that the Gulf of Aden, the location of a growing number of pirate attacks, "must not be used for leisure activities." He continued, "Anyone who sails to this area nonetheless is deliberately putting the life and limb of his passengers at risk."
As we previously reported, at least two German-based operators, Hapag-Lloyd and Plantours & Partner, heeded the minister's advice a priori, offloading passengers in Yemen prior to sailing through the Gulf of Aden. In Hapag-Lloyd's case, passengers were dropped off in Yemen and flown to Dubai.
The increased threat of piracy in the region caught the attention of the cruise industry in particular following a failed hijacking attempt of Oceania Cruises' Nautica in November. Cruise ships mostly sail through the Gulf of Aden as part of world cruises. Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas and Peter Deilmann's Deutschland will sail through the Gulf in March. Azamara Quest is scheduled to make the transit through the Gulf of Aden in April.
These cruise lines have not made changes to these itineraries -- yet.
In the long term, greater military presence may also mean potential protection for cruise ships. A growing number of countries -- including China, Germany, Russia and Italy -- have naval ships deployed in the Gulf of Aden, which is a major shipping route connecting the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The warships protect commercial cargo ships and vessels carrying aid to Africa. More recently, ships have been sent to engage in combat operations against pirates.
We'll keep you posted.
--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor
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