Today’s news reports that Somalia pirates have captured the French pleasure yacht LePonant off the coast of Somalia. The 288 foot cruise ship was stormed by Ponant the pirates who are holding the 30 crew members captive. It was returning from the Seychelles, without passengers, on it’s way for a voyage with passengers from Alexandria, Egypt to Malta.

This is an area Lita and I have cruised in. We have gone on a cruise ship from Alexandria through Turkey, Greece and ending up in Italy. We have also cruised the African coast and stayed on the Seychelles on our way to West Africa for a photo safari. In fact, on our last cruise on the Sebourn lines we learned the ship we were on had been previously attacked by pirates in that area, but who were repelled. In November 2005, pirates in two small boats armed with machine guns Africa_pol_2007_5 and rocket propelled grenades attempted to capture the Seabourn cruise line’s Spirit, a 440′ long ship. There were four or five men in each 25′ long boat who tried to board the vessel. This was the same ship we were sailing several years later. At the time of the attack, the Spirit had 150 passengers and a crew of 160. The crew had been trained for an emergency response to such an attack. One grenade landed on the ship, but did not explode while injuring a crew member, without any other injuries. The cruise liner had a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) when it was attacked some 100 miles off the coast of Somalia. This cannon produces earsplitting noises with a 45 lb. Dish shaped device. It sends a very loud shrill sound focused in a small area. This device plus the maneuvering of the ship prevented the attack from succeeding.

The French cruise ship that has been boarded by pirates is a luxury ship. It is a three masted vessel and has four decks, two restaurants and holds 64 passengers. Pirates have seized more than two dozen ships off Somalia’s coast last year. It’s reported that global pirate attacks has risen ten percent last year. Denmark’s government paid a ransom in August for the release of a Danish cargo ship after the crew was held hostage for two months. I think I would give second thoughts to any return cruise anywhere in that general area now.

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