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Idarat Maritime - Cruise Liners

Threats to Cruise Liners

Apart from the terrorist attack on the Achille Lauro and the threat of IRA bombs on the QEII cruise liners have appeared to be extremely safe vessels, with the only real threat to their passengers from food poisoning.

However, there have been several recent incidents in the Arabian Sea which suggest that cruise liners are now a potential target for pirates.

The German government gave a clear travel warning in December 2008. They said that the Gulf of Aden is so dangerous that those who sail there are knowingly putting the lives of their passengers at risk.

German cruise ship, MS Columbus, disembarked its 246 passengers and most of its crew in the Yemeni port of Hodeida and then flew them to Dubai in order to avoid pirates attacks in the Gulf of Aden. In December 2008 Somali pirates attacked the American cruise ship the MS Nautica which carried 1,000 passengers and crew.

linerIn USA Today Doug Burnett, a maritime lawyer and retired naval officer is quoted as saying "The genie is out of the bottle, we will see more of these attacks." Burnett, a partner in the maritime practice at global law firm Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, told USA Today that the Somali pirates in the region have become emboldened in recent months following several spectacular successes hijacking vessels for ransom, and they're now on the hunt for even richer prey. The pirate have scored one success, the French luxury cruise ship Le Ponant was captured by Somali pirates in spring 2008, in the Gulf of Aden, they got a $2.15 million ransom.

Given the increase in piracy around the world there is no reason to think that cruise liners are necessarily safe in other areas. Piracy occurs off the coast of South America and in the Caribbean, as well as in South East Asia, cruise liners need to be prepared to deal with such threats, and smaller vessels, like the Ponant are especially vulnerable.

We believe that cruise ships, like other merchant vessels, require standard protocols and preparation before operating in dangerous waters. The consequences of a successful attack on a cruise ship would be horrific, the thought of hundreds of passengers being kept prisoners in Somalia is something that needs to be planned for. If such an event happened it would be likely that elderly passengers would die of stress-related conditions, that there would be threats against passengers' lives until ransoms were paid and there would be arguments over responsibility and the ability of foreign naval forces to intervene in such circumstances.

in the news: Egypt

Egyptian prosecutors interrogated the crew of an Italian cruise liner, which had smashed into a dock during bad weather at the Red Sea resort town of Sharm Al Shaikh early on Friday.

The accident left three members of the Costa Europa crew dead.

"The pier will be repaired at the expense of the shipping company," said Mamdouh Deraz, the chairman of the Red Sea Ports Authority on Saturday. The official had formed a team to investigate the accident and compile a final report. No oficial charges have been filed against the crew.

Gulf News 27 Feb. 2010

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