The days of buried treasure, squawking parrots, and One-Eyed-Willie may have ended, but modern-day piracy is causing trouble on the horizon for the cruise industry. The International Maritime Bureau announced this year that 2008 saw an unprecedented increase in maritime hijacking, reporting a total of 293 incidents up 11% from 2007. Whats more alarming is that number rose by 200% in the Gulf of Aden.
The pirates have targeted tankers, warships, and cargo liners, but have had little success capturing cruise ships due to their ability to out run the smaller pirate-controlled ships. The latest incident took place March 4 when The Balmoral was circled by an unidentified vessel which came within 400 meters of the luxury cruise ship. There were unconfirmed reports of gunfire, but the Balmoral was able to perform evasive maneuvers until the vessel was forced to abort the chase.
In November, 2005 the Seabourn Spirit was attacked by pirates armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, leaving one crew member injured. Last year, 30 hostages were captured on the French luxury yacht Le Ponant, but were later released after negotiations with the ships owner. Yet another attack took place in November when shots were fired at the Oceania Nautica, but thankfully, the ship also managed to flee its pursuers.
Although some ships are bypassing the Gulf of Aden, many cruise lines are still sailing this region but have put extra precautions in place. The Cruise Line International Association which represents 23 major cruise lines addressed the issue by stating that:
CLIA members that have ships scheduled to traverse the Gulf of Aden operate within the prescribed Maritime Safety Protection Area, which is patrolled by international anti-piracy task forces. They also follow international guidelines concerning regular contact with military forces patrolling the gulf, speed, maneuvering, and enhanced lookouts. All CLIA members have thorough security protocols in place, including anti-piracy measures that help to ensure the safety of their passengers and crew while they enjoy a cruise vacation.
Hopefully, these measures will pay off, but then again we may just be entering the eye of the storm.