Pirates Attacked Commercial Ship Off Somali Coast

Stavanger, Norway - June 5, 2009: The cruise ship AURORA by P&O Cruises has moored at Skagenkaien Pier in the port of Stavanger (Norway). The ship was on a journey through the countries of northern Europe. P&O Cruises is a brand of the British-American group Carnival Corporation & plc.

For most people, preparing to set sail on a cruise is an exciting experience. Especially for first time cruisers, there is often a great deal of anticipation surrounding all of the activities that are in store. Whether you’re looking forward to the shore excursions or the entertainment on deck, you know that you’re in for a treat.

With so much to be excited about, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that accident and injury are still a possibility at sea. Although most people would prefer to pretend as if those issues were not a concern, we believe in keeping our readers informed. This way, you can make the most educated decision when you decide to book your cruise.

One topic that’s fallen out of the news in recent years has been the issue of pirates. However, a recent story out of Somalia reminds us that shouldn’t forget about this problem just yet.

Recently, 24 Somali pirates hijacked an oil tanker—the Aris 13—as it sailed near Somalia’s northern coast. This was the first successful hijacking of a commercial ship in five years.

In the past year, Western navies have reduced anti-piracy patrols in order to send ships to the Mediterranean to handle the migrant situation there, as well as to combat threats from Russia in the Baltic. While this reassignment makes sense, it has potentially led pirates to gain confidence, setting their sights on commercial vessels once again.

Authorities located the Aris 13 off the town of Alula, known to be a former pirate base in the Putland region of Somalia, and expect the pirates will demand a ransom.

News like this is never a good sign. However, it’s not necessary to cancel your cruise vacation just yet. It’s important to remember that cruise lines are acutely aware of the security situation of the waters they traverse, all across the globe. If a region of the world is deemed unsafe or even a potential threat, the company will re-route its ships to keep passengers safe.

Cruise Lines Take Precautions

In the unlikely event that a cruise ship sails through pirate-infested waters, passengers can rest assured that cruise lines know how to handle the situation. Most of the time, cruise ships can outrun the small pirate boats and bring everyone on board to safety.

Additionally, the freeboard—the distance between the waterline and open decks—on cruise ships are typically high enough to create a sizable obstacle for pirates using grappling hooks to make their way aboard the large vessel.

Earlier this year, the P&O ship Aurora was making its annual around-the-world voyage when passengers were given a briefing of what to do in the event of a pirate attack. The ship took precautions specifically while passing the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden. At these points along the voyage, the Promenade Deck closed from dusk until dawn, only essential open deck lights remained on during hours of darkness, and passengers were asked to keep balcony lights off and close cabin curtains.

We’re told that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ways in which cruise lines are prepared to proactively protect passengers against pirates in potentially risky waters.  This is good to hear – as news of pirate attacks remind us of the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking where four men representing the Palestine Liberation Front hijacked the MS Achille Lauro off the Egyptian coast, murdering Leon Klinghoffer, a 69 year old Jewish American passenger.

We are also reminded that incidents can happen when you least expect them. And if you have been injured aboard your cruise and believe your cruise line is to blame, then we are here to help. A maritime attorney on our team is ready to listen to your story and help you get back on track. So, do not hesitate to contact us.