Cruise Lines Respond to Latest Pirate Attack

April 29, 2009
MSC Melody

With the spotlight on Sunday's attempted pirate hijacking of the 35,143-ton, 1,062-passenger MSC Melody, at least one cruise line may be reconsidering its policy of sending ships through the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's most dangerous shipping routes. You guessed it -- it's MSC.

MSC Cruises' CEO Pierfrancesco Vago has declared that his line will now avoid the pirate-infested area. The Italy-based cruise line's top exec told Travel Weekly that "I will never have a ship there again until the area is secure. The area is not safe. We were in an area that was considered to be safe. MSC will no longer take the risk."

British operator Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has likewise made the the decision to keep out of the region, altering the itinerary of Balmoral's upcoming 106-night world cruise to avoid the Gulf of Aden. Scheduled to depart on 5 January 2010, the cruise was due to visit ports in the Indian Ocean en route to Dubai, Oman and Egypt before transiting the Suez Canal and returning to the United Kingdom via the Mediterranean. The new itinerary will instead cross the Indian Ocean from Fremantle in Australia and return to the U.K. by way of South Africa and the west coast of Africa.

But while MSC and Fred. have declared their line's new pirate policy of Aden avoidance, other operators are sticking to their schedules.

Costa Cruises' Costa Victoria, which is set to pass through the Gulf over the next few days, will transit as planned. "All of the proper preventive measures have been taken to ensure a safe navigation," spokesperson Dana Dominici tells us.

"Our procedures are aimed to tracing routes with the UN Interforce Committee task force controls. In the area we are in constant contact with them and with security authorities in Italy and abroad. Security is then assured through a constant surveillance and by specific equipment for keeping any suspicious boats at a safe distance."

Oceania Cruises likewise has announced no changes to the routing or schedule of its Nautica, which is set to make the transit this weekend.

Cruise lines have altered plans due to pirate activity in the past. As we reported recently, MSC Rhapsody took an alternate course through the Gulf of Aden in March (MSC Melody was on the same route when it was attacked on Sunday). In December 2008, German-based cruise operators Plantours & Partner and Hapag-Lloyd disembarked passengers before transiting the pirate-infested waterway.

--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor

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