Come on pirates, we’re ready

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As Spirit of Adventure sails closer to the Gulf of Aden, the “P”-word (for pirates) – which cruise director Neil Horrocks has been trying to avoid for a week – has finally become an accepted part of conversation.
This afternoon, Captain Frank Allica gave a 45-minute talk in the Sirocco Lounge. On most cruises, it would have mostly been about his life in the Australian navy, the times when, as a gunnery officer he fired thousands of five-inch rounds at Viet Cong defences, and of his brushes with the Duke of Edinburgh and the Princess Royal.
A packed audience sat politely through all that today, but what they really wanted to hear about was what would happen if the ship is attacked by Somali pirates.
Finally he did get round to explaining the preparations that have been made both to fend off any possible attacks, and to deal with a raiding party if they succeed in boarding the ship.
“Tonight we leave the Red Sea and enter the Gulf of Aden, where will be heading to the security corridor patrolled by a joint naval force. We will not be sailing in convoy as such, but we have to report in and we are given a certain time to enter the corridor, which is why we had to change the itinerary slightly, and miss out the call in Djibouti.
“It will take 36 hours to transit the 500-mile corridor, during which we may not see another ship. The patrol vessels will be nearby, but they may put themselves where there is known activity.
“There have been 200 incidents so far this year, but because of the security corridor, most pirate attacks are taking place off the east coast of Somalia, 600 to 800 miles out to sea, and as far as the Seychelles.
“We have heightened security levels and will be posting more look-outs on the bridge and at the aft of the ship. We have a high-frequency LRAD device which emits an intensive sound to deter boarders, we have put razor wire around the stern, and we have hosepipes and other equipment to stop them boarding.”
Most reassuringly, he also said we have extra Gurkha security staff on board.
Capt Allica continued: “If pirates do come on board, we will ask you to come to the Sirocco lounge and we will lock you in for your own protection. Everything will be done to delay the pirates and to give the security forces time to get here and provide support.
“It is unlikely there will be any trouble – they would have to be stupid to attack a ship like this because it would really bring the forces down on them – but we are preparing for the worst eventualities, and I am telling you how it is.”
In a letter posted to each cabin, the captain also explained some of the other precautions to be taken.
“During the nights of December 7 and 8 we will be reducing the amount of lighting on the upper deck to better allow the look-outs to do their job. We also propose to close the deadlights on the portholes of all B-Deck cabins.
“We will be closing the outside area of the Verandah Deck this evening and the early morning of December 8.
“There are many innocent fishing vessels which operate in the Gulf of Aden region and it can be difficult to distinguish between friends and foe. I propose to allow our guests to use the upper deck during the day while we are in transit, but from time to time it may be necessary to ask you to vacate the upper deck until we verify that a contact is no threat to the ship.
“Our crew is trained and drilled in counter-measures. An attack by pirates is very unlikely and I do not wish to alarm you, but wish to inform you of the preparations which are essential and may impact to a degree on the enjoyment of your passage for a very limited time.”
The passengers appear to be as ready for action as the crew – and I fear there may even be disappointment if we do not encounter a hostile vessel.
But one lady felt she had a point to make when she asked, to laughter around the room: “Why did the managing director get off the ship in Sudan?”
In fact James Duguid, who had been on board for a few days, had meetings to attend in connection with his project to restore the town of Suakin, and also had to return to the UK in time for the final arrival into Southampton of the Saga Rose.
It was left to another passenger to ask if the company had asked Gordon Brown to be ready with his cheque book if we were captured and held to ransom.
To which the general opinion was that even if he did, the cheque would bounce.

By | 2009-12-07T18:02:14+00:00 7 December 2009|Cruise News, Cruise Ships|0 Comments

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John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

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