So much for MSC Melody’s attempt to avoid Somali pirates by taking a diversion en route from South Africa to the Suez Canal.
The cruise ship, carrying 994 passengers – 493 of them from the UK and Ireland – and 500 crew, came under attack in the Indian Ocean on Saturday night, 200 miles north of the Seychelles and a good 500 miles from Somalia.
Shots were exchanged and six men in a small white boat attempted to board the ship, but were repulsed by a private Israeli security force hired by the ship’s Italian owners. None of the passengers or crew was injured.
Commander. Ciro Pinto told Italian state radio the pirates fired with automatic weapons, slightly damaging the liner, and tried to put a ladder on board. During the 20-minute close encounter skirmish, the security men fired back with pistols and turned a high pressure hose on the invaders.
“It felt like we were in a war,” said Pinto.
Cruise line security work is a popular job for young Israelis who have recently been discharged from army service, as it is a good chance to save money and travel.
The Spanish warship SPS Marques de Ensenada from the international protection fleet is meeting up with the liner to escort her through the pirate-infested northern Gulf of Aden, the Maritime Security Center said.
The cruise ship was headed as scheduled to the Jordanian port of Aqaba. The Melody is on a 22-day voyage from Durban, South Africa, to Genoa, Italy.
Pirates have attacked more than 100 ships off the Somali coast over the last year, reaping an estimated $1 million in ransom for each successful hijacking, according to analysts and country experts.