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Cruise liner repels Somali pirate attack

From: Agence France-Presse From correspondents in Nairobi

November 06, 2005

A luxury ship carrying at least 600 tourists from Europe has narrowly escaped an attack by pirates near the Somali coast when it sped off to the high seas amid a trail of gunfire.

The vessel was destined to the Kenyan Indian Ocean city of Mombasa, where it was expected to arrive on Monday, Andrew Mwangura of the Kenyan chapter of the Seafarers' Assistance Programme (SAP) said.

"Reports reaching us here this morning indicated that pirates armed with guns in speed boats fired on a cruise ship MV Seaborn Spirit while on its way to Mombasa," Mr Mwangura said, adding that the registration of the ship was still unclear.

He explained that the gunmen sailing in three speedboats later abandoned the chase as they could not venture into the high seas and that no one was injured in the botched hijack overnight.

"The captain made a distress call and later switched off the radio communication to avoid being traced by the hijackers," said Mr Mwangura.

"He told us that they were safe and were sailing to destination," he said adding that the vessel had changed course to the Indian Ocean islands of Seychelles.


The attempted seizure came two days after the UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned that the increasingly dangerous Somali waters hampered delivery of relief supplies to more than half a million people facing acute food shortage there.

Last month, pirates in the un-patrolled waters off the 3,700-kilometre coastline of the war-torn Horn of Africa country released two UN-chartered vessels, one of which had been seized in June, but several others and their crews remain in captivity.

"Eastern and northeastern coasts of Somalia are high risk areas for hijackings," said Mwangura. "The southern coastline is among the most dangerous in the world."

The official said that the SAP would convene on Monday to discuss the latest hijacking attempt, the first on a cruise ship off the dangerous Somalia coast, as it had a potentially devastating impact on Kenyan tourism.

At least 23 hijackings and attempted seizures have been recorded off the Somalia coastline since mid-March, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which has warned ships to stay as far away from the coast as possible and keep radio communication to the minimal.

Somali pirates, mainly remnants of the Horn of Africa nation's former navy and seasoned fishermen-turned-hijackers, are now one of the world's biggest threats to commercial shipping, according to the IMB.

In September, transitional Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi appealed to Somali neighbours to send warships and other naval vessels to patrol the country's coast where the pirates have become increasingly brazen.

Ship owners are now demanding armed escorts before agreeing to travel through these waters.

Somalia, home to nearly 10 million people, has been without a functioning central administration since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Said Barre rendered the country unstable and overrun by warlords.

The transitional government, which was formed in Kenya last year, has been bogged down by internal squabbles and failed to exert control across the Horn of Africa nation that is governed by unruly warlords.

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Wow, 600 tourists? Seabourn must have a lot of 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th berths on the 104 cabins on board that ship LOL.

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"The 440-foot-long, 10,000-ton cruise ship, which is registered in the Bahamas, sustained minor damage, Good said. The liner, which had its maiden voyage in 1989, can accommodate 208 guests.

Another article I read, in the local paper, said there were 168 passengers....

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Thanks for the link, GottaCruz. It certainly is an interesting and insightful perspective hearing about the horrific incident from a passenger who was aboard the ship.

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I thought it was interesting also, Mebert. It was good to hear that most were calm and that the captain kept them so informed. I'd probably be a crazy person.No, I'd definitely go nuts.

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