the "safety and security of all guests and staff" is important: That's why they have Designated Smoking Areas.
Their cruise ships also have sonic cannons, powerful engines, and at least one alert captain. The Nautica's sonic cannon wasn't used during yesterday's attack, but the crew had their Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), ready for use.
"Yesterday's attack?" I'm getting ahead of myself. The Nautica, a nice cruise ship, was minding its own business in the Gulf of Aden:
- Good news:
Somali pirates didn't hijack the Nautica
- Bad news:
One pirate skiff got within 300 yards and fired eight rifle shots, but the Natutica out-maneuvered it, and the other skiff involved in the attack. The cruise ship also outran the skiffs. I didn't realize that a cruise ship could make 23 knots. 27 miles an hour isn't all that impressive on land, but
Blame TimeOne headline reads "Somali Pirates," which raises a question: What nut case of a captain would run a cruise ship near the Somali coast?
We still don't know the answer: because the Nautica was off the coast of Yemen when pirates attacked the cruise ship. That's according to someone speaking for the Nautica's owner, Oceania Cruises.
Actually, the Gulf of Aden isn't all that wide: a couple hundred miles, or about three hundred kilometers, depending on how you like to measure things. If Somali pirates have ship-based radar, and I'd think they could afford it, given their cash flow, they could target a cruise ship near the Yemeni coast and still have a good chance of staying out of the way of those international patrols.
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The Yemeni government's track record for keeping tight reins on illegal activity being what it is, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that a local sheik decided to boost his revenue through piracy, no matter what the leaders off in Sanaa thought about it.
I've noticed that "Somali pirates" has changed to "pirates" in news reports. That photo is from Sky News, when it was "Somali Pirates." I'm not clear on why news services thought the pirates were from Somalia.
It could simply be the result of starting with couple of facts, then making a dicey assumption:
- The Nautica was attacked in the Gulf of Aden
- Somalia is on the Gulf of Aden
- Pirates operate in Somalia
- These must be Somali pirates
I'm also very glad that nobody got hurt.
Near-Miss for a Cruise Ship: Lessons to Learn?I can think of a few:
- Big engines are nice to have
- Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs) are nice to have
- Running is a good idea: particularly when you're in command of a cruise ship
- This could have been turned out very badly
It's different, when over a thousand people, who may not have put two and two together and realized what "over-night stays in some of the world's most alluring ports" actually implies.
That shooting gallery, down at the south end of the Red Sea, isn't one of the areas that Oceania Cruises focuses on. But if you're going to get from Asia to Africa in a reasonable time, the Gulf of Aden is going to be on your route.
I still think that America's 'no negotiation' rule makes sense, gut-wrenching as it is. Paying ransom for the first boatload of cruise ship passengers and (I trust) the crew might result in a happy reunion for the people immediately involved. But it's hard to imagine that making the hijacking of a cruise ship profitable would discourage pirates from trying the same thing again. And again.
The alternative, of course, is extremely unpleasant in the short run: and I'm not sure that I'd have the nerve and determination it takes to refuse demands of pirates holding someone I know.
But emotional pain doesn't make rewarding pirates and putting the lives of the next ship in danger a good idea.
Long-Term Solution: Pirates Must GoI sincerely hope that, a few decades from now, Somalia will be a nation with a functioning government, laws, and a lively sense of enlightened self-interest: not the colorful land of crazed religious zealots, lawless pirates, and besieged national 'leaders' it is now. That's going to take hard work, and brains.
- "Negotiated End to Somali Piracy - This Just Might Work "
(November 26, 2008)
- "Luxury cruise ship outruns pirates"
CNN (December 1, 2008)
- "Pirates fire on cruise ship"
Thy Sydney Morning Herald (December 1, 2008)
- "Somali Pirates Attack Cruise Ship"
Sky News (December 1, 2008)