In response to increasing concern about pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia, MSC Cruises today announced that its MSC Melody will sail a modified itinerary from Durban, South Africa, to Genoa -- but while the itinerary change itself is relatively minor, the circumstances surrounding the decision are quite the opposite.
Piracy is becoming a bigger issue by the day, with vessel raids and hijackings on the rise in the Gulf of Aden. According to reports by the Associated Press and other media outlets, the pirates are now acting more violently toward hostages than even in the recent past. And though the pirates' focus of late has been on freighters, cruise lines that sail in the area are also proceeding with caution. Seabourn, Costa, Azamara and Oceania all still plan on transiting the gulf in the coming weeks, as we previously reported -- but are employing additional security measures, such as travelling in caravans.
MSC Melody meanwhile will follow a course similar to that of MSC Rhapsody last month. The ship, which departed Durban today, will still transit the Gulf of Aden -- but on a less direct route farther away from the eastern coastline of Somalia. Because the trip will take longer (some 400 miles have been added), a call at Egypt's Safaga has been cancelled.
The 35,143-ton, 1,062-passenger ship will still call at Aqaba, Jordan, and Sokhna, Egypt, as planned. Also, a U.K.-based spokeswoman for the line tells us that the ship will spend more time in the Seychelles, including a stop at Port Victoria -- the capital city of the Republic of Seychelles -- which wasn't in the original schedule. The duration of the cruise has not changed: 21 nights.
According to an MSC Cruises press release, the route changes were made based on recommendations of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the Maritime Security Centre for the Horn of Africa. MSC tells us the line has been following these routing recommendations for more than one year, "since the pirates problem became more serious."
Additional security measures that will be taken onboard include a static watch on open decks during the transit and constant contact with war ships that patrol the area and escort vessels if necessary. MSC Melody will also travel at its maximum speed.
We'll keep you posted.
--by Melissa Baldwin Paloti, Managing Editor, with reporting by Kelly Ranson, U.K. Editor
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Pirate Threat Impacts Cruise Ship Itinerary
April 17, 2009