Pirate Attack on Cruise Ship Raises Issues

April 28, 2009
MSC Melody

As MSC Melody continues on toward Aqaba, Jordan, Sunday morning's thwarted pirate attack is still creating waves.

The major controversy, of course, is the line's use of armed security personnel -- whose return fire went a long way in warding off the bandits. A spokeswoman for the Italian line tells us that MSC Cruises' ships are, as a general rule, unarmed -- but that light weapons can be carried onboard, and kept in a safe only the captain has the authority to open, if added security is deemed necessary.

Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC's chief executive officer, told maritime news outlet Lloyd's List that the issue is one that should be debated industry-wide. "It is too soon after the event for me to comment now, though certainly I can't think of what it would have been like to have 1,000 hostages taken," Vago told Lloyd's List. "It would have been a disaster."

According to Lloyd's List, next month's European Cruise Council meeting in Rome could serve as the venue for such talks.

In other news, BBC News reports that Spanish forces have arrested nine Somalis suspected of being (or being connected to) the pirates that attacked MSC Melody Sunday morning.

Mohamed Muse, the supposed head of the group, discussed the pirates' failure to capture MSC Melody with wire service AFP. "The capture of such a large vessel would have represented a major step forward for pirates off the Somalian coast," Muse told AFP, according to Lloyd's List, "but unfortunately their tactics were good and we could not board.

"It was not the first time we have attacked this kind of boat and we were very close to capturing it. We really showered it with bullets."
In an official statement from MSC Cruises, Gianluigi Aponte, owner of MSC Cruises, is quoted as saying, "We are very proud that our crew proved to be able to promptly tackle the emergency. At the moment of the attack, the ship was 600 nautical miles from Somalian coast, in an area that is not considered dangerous, and 180 nautical miles from Seychelles. All security measures adopted worked perfectly.

"Even in such a critical situation, land and onboard staff showed great professionalism and extreme clarity, allowing the ship to continue on its itinerary without additional problems and consequences for passengers and the crew."

In light of Sunday's pirate attack, MSC Cruises plans to reroute all of its ships away from east coast of Africa. We'll keep you posted on any additional itinerary changes from other cruise lines.

--by Melissa Baldwin Paloti, Managing Editor

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