Safety at Sea: Cruise Ships & Terrorism

CBS New York aired a short special last night titled Elite NYPD Team Protects City From Dirty Bombs, Waterborne Threats.

The video focused on the efforts of a special unit of the NYPD’s Counter-Terrorism Division which concentrates on protecting the hundreds of cruise ships and other maritime vessels which enter and leave the ports of New York and New Jersey each year.

The special begins with the Norwegian Gem returning in the predawn hours to New York after ten days at sea. Unbeknownst to the passengers, the NCL cruise ship was being swept for a dirty bomb before it entered the port. 

The New York anti-terrorism team reportedly uses radiation detection devices and sonar to scan the ships and docks for explosive devices.

The special briefly discusses the deadly attack on the U.S.S. Cole in 2000 and the last month's suicide attack on a Saudi Arabian frigate, both occurring in the Red Sea near Yemen, which we have mentioned several times in other articles. 

The CBS crew interviewed the CEO, Dan Richards, of a security company called Global Rescue, which CBS says provides crisis response and evacuation options to travelers. Mr.Richards mentions that that "ISIS and other terrorist organizations are planning these kinds of operations.” This is a sentiment expressed by several U.S. naval commanders in the recent past. Read: Terrorists on the Ocean: Sea Monsters in the 21st Century by Captain Robert N. Hein, U.S. Navy.

Many travelers may be comforted by these security measures in New York and other major seaports like Miami and elsewhere. But, at the same time, the special underscores the lack of security in ports of call outside of the U.S., in places like the Caribbean and North Africa, where the port countries lack the resources to implement sophisticated anti-terrorism plans.

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Royal Caribbean Cancels Radiance's Stop in Bali Due to Terrorism Concerns

Radiance of the SeasRoyal Caribbean is canceling the March 17th port call in Bali for the Radiance of the Seas due to its concerns over terrorism. The cruise line informed passengers: 

"Hello, this is Royal Caribbean International. We would like to provide you with some important information regarding your March 12, 2016, sailing onboard Radiance of the Seas. In an abundance of caution, and based on the latest security information we have gathered, Royal Caribbean International has made a decision to cancel its call to Bali, Indonesia on Thursday, March 17, 2016. Additional ports of call have been added to your itinerary. A letter with additional details will be provided to you at boarding. We appreciate your understanding as your safety is always our foremost concern."

Last week, sister cruise line Celebrity distributed letters to the passengers and crew members on the Celebrity Solstice indicating that the cruise ship will not be calling on Bali (Benoa) due to the potential of a terrorist attack. You can read our article - Celebrity Solstice Cancels Stop in Bali Due to Concern of Terrorism.

March 10, 2016 Update:  Newspapers in Australia are reporting that the "Radiance of the Seas and the Celebrity Millenium will also leave the island off their itineraries. Celebrity Millenium was due to overnight in Bali on March 16, and Radiance of the Seas was scheduled to visit the following day."

Photo credit: Bahnfrend - CC BY-SA 4.0, creative commons / wikimedia.

Celebrity Solstice Cancels Stop in Bali Due to Concern of Terrorism

Bali TerrorismToday I received copies of letters handed out to the passengers and crew members on the Celebrity Solstice indicating that the cruise ship will not be calling on Bali (Benoa) due to the potential of a terrorist attack.

As you can see below, the letter distributed to the passengers yesterday mentions travel warnings about potential terrorist attacks in Bali issued by the Australian and U.K. governments. In addition, the letter signed by Captain Yannis Berdos, states that:

"the most recent information received in the past few days indicates that the possibility of an incident has increased. Also the Balinese New Year on March 9th, and recent past advisories has named this date as one that would be targeted by terrorists. Based on all of this information we have gathered from various sources, and in discussion with our Global Security team in Miami, we have made a decision to cancel our call to Bali." 

The letter mentions (not to nitpick) that Celebrity felt that it "could not guarantee" passenger safety in Bali due to these concerns.  Of course, cruise lines have no legal duty to "guarantee" safety but only to act reasonably and to warn passengers of dangers which the cruise companies know or should know about ashore in ports of call.

It looks like Celebrity is acting prudently in taking steps to reduce the threat of harm to its passengers and crew. I have been critical in the past of cruise lines when they cruise passenger into dangerous ports of call, like when Costa and MSC sailed into La Goulette, Tunisia and ISIS slaughtered several dozen cruise passengers.

The letter sent to the Celebrity crew members today by the Solstice's Executive Team mentions what is referred to as  "credible security concerns" that led to the decision to bypass Bali.  

Many crew members are from Indonesia and will now be unable to visit with their family and loved ones.

The 2002 Bali bombings (photo above) occurred in October of 2002 in the tourist district of Kuta on Bali. The attack killed over 200 people (including 88 Australians, 38 Indonesians, and people from more than 20 other nationalities). An additional 200 people were also injured.

Jemaah Islamiyah members, a violent Islamist group supported by al-Qaeda, were convicted of engaging in the bombings which involved the detonation of a backpack bomb by a suicide bomber and a large car bomb. Three of the terrorists were executed.  A recording from Osama Bin Laden stated that the Bali bombings were in retaliation for support of the United States' war on terror and Australia's role in the liberation of East Timor.

The Jakarta Post recently published an article stating that cruise tourism is increasing in Bali, the country’s most famous tourist destination. In 2015, 58 cruise ships arrived on the island.  

March 7, 2016 Update:

A local newspaper in Bali questions the timing of the cancellation, writing: "questions have been raised by at least one passenger via postings on Facebook on the timing of the cancellation of the visit to Bali. The last warning from the Australian Government urging extreme caution for those traveling to Indonesia was issued on February 25th – a date well in advance of the Celebrity Solstice’s departure from Australia to Bali. . . . Questions are being raised as to why the decision and announcement on Bali’s removal from the cruise itinerary not delivered to passengers prior sailing?" 

Trave Agent Central points out that Celebrity's sister cruise line Royal Caribbean, which shares the same Global Security team, is sailing the Radiance of the Seas to Bali later this month as well as in April. 

Top photo: HWT Image Library via news.com.au

Passenger letter credit: NorbertsNiece from Cruise Critic a/k/a 'Linda Lemer Ward

Crew letter credit: Anonymous

Celebrity Sollstice Terrorism Bali

Celebrity Solstice Terrorism

Celebrity Cancels More Stops in Istanbul

Celebrity Cruises canceled a stop in Istanbul earlier this week because of concerns with terrorism.  We were the first to report on the cancellation involving the Equinox.

Today, Celebrity canceled more port stops, announcing that the Reflection will not stay in Istanbul on August 31st and will depart earlier in the day. Celebrity will also skip the Reflection's port call in Istanbul on September 4th & 5th and will instead call on Athens. 

Cruise IstanbulOn August 19th Costa canceled all port stops in Istanbul for the remainder of the year.

Costa and other cruise lines are under pressure not to sail more passengers into danger like Costa  recklessly did when it cruised to Tunisia in March, resulting in passengers being slaughtered. I called for the security chiefs to be sacked

There are hundreds of cruises scheduled for Istanbul this year. Expect more cancelations

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Photo Credit: rehbergundemi.com

Terrorists Arrested Aboard the Costa Magica?

Several readers of Cruise Law News sent us articles today reporting that Greek police officers boarded the Costa Magica while it was in the Port in Piraeus, Greece and arrested four passengers who had possession of firearms.   

The Croatian newspaper Slobodna Dalmacija Daily reports that the incident occurred on Thursday October 2nd.

Approximately 3,000 other passengers embarked from Venice on a seven-day Mediterranean cruise. Once the ship reached Greece, the Greek police boarded the Magica and arrested one woman and three men for possession of firearms (pistols).

The cruise ship was delayed departing from Piraeus because of the incident. The incident was not announced on the ship and the passengers seemed to be unaware of it. 

The newspaper says that the news about the arrest of four passengers could not be found either in the Greek or in the Italian media. The newspaper interviewed crew members from Dubrovnik who explained the circumstances surrounding the arrests.

The newspaper say that the information was suppressed because it was bad for the cruise industry's business. 

Those interviewed explained that there are 3,000 passengers and 6000 suitcases simultaneously screened in just a few hours and it is impossible to effectively screen so many passengers and luggage in such little time.

This is particularly worrying, the newspaper suggested, when the Islamic states repeatedly threaten harm to the Americans and their allies.

The article is entitled The Terrorists Tried to Hijack the Cruise Ship with 3,000 Passengers.

There is no indication why the 4 passengers had the guns nor is there any proof or explanation in the newspaper that they were in fact terrorists. 

The Costa Magica participated in anti-terrorist exercises last year. 

Anyone with more information about this incident please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page. 

October 14, 2014 Update: Costa Crociere posted this statement on Twitter: "Segnalate alle autorità 5 persone che hanno tentato l'imbarco su Costa Magica con documenti falsi. Nessuna arma è stata trovata." Translated: "5 people reported to the authorities who have attempted boarding on Costa Magica with false documents. No weapon was found."

Costa Magica

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Abxbay Creative Commons 3.0

27 Years After Hijacking of Achille Lauro, Can Cruise Ships Keep Passengers Safe in the Middle East?

Twenty-seven years ago today, the world saw terrifying television images of Palestinian terrorists holding passengers aboard the Achille Lauro cruise ship hostage. The terrorists demanded the release of 50 Palestinians held in Israeli jails. 

There were over 20 nationalities of passengers booked on the cruise, but the terrorists stated that Americans would be the first to be executed if their demands were not met.   

Leon Klinghoffer, age 69, was from New York City and was vacationing with his wife, Marilyn, and their friends, when the Achille Lauro sailed for Port Said, Egypt.  Although Mr. Klinghoffer was disabled and in a wheelchair, the terrorists picked him to be the first to die. They shot him in the chest and head, and Achille Lauro Cruise Ship - Terrorismthen forced two crew members to dump him and his wheelchair over the side of the cruise ship.

That terrible crime occurred in October 1985. Now 27 years later, are cruise passengers, particularly Americans, any safer?

We have seen civil unrest across North Africa. President Mubarek is gone from Egypt and Colonel Gaddafi of Libya is dead. Good riddance to both I say, but both countries now seem more dangerous to Americans than ever. Last month we saw anti-American demonstrations on the 9/11 anniversary in both of these countries, and the murder of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya in Benghazi.

On the front page above the crease of the New York Times this morning are several articles about violence in Syria with a photo of a Syrian firing a Kalashnikov rifle. I not sure who is fighting who anymore but they all seem to have the potential to take their violence to U.S. interests.

In April I blogged about a plot where Arab terrorists envisioned hijacking a U.S. based cruise ship, forcing the passengers to wear orange Guantanamo-like jump suits and then videotaping their execution. 

The World Cruise Industry Review concluded that the most likely terrorist scenario is the hijacking of a Anti American Protests - Egypt, Libya, Tunisiacruise ship and its passengers: "A cruise ship is boarded and commandeered, while perpetrators hold and potentially injure or kill passengers if demands are not met – as in the Achille Lauro attack."

27 years after Leon Klinghoffer's dead body was dumped into the Mediterranean Sea, the danger of terrorism against cruise ship passengers seems greater than ever before. Have cruise ships increased the number of security guards aboard their cruise ships? I doubt it. Every cabin occupied by a security guard means less revenue for the cruise lines.    

The current strategy seems to be to simply skip ports in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia until things calm down. But that's a short turn fix; when the street protests are over, there remains the risk of jihadists plotting a cruise ship to target. Will the cruise security teams be ready?

If terrorists can over-power several heavily armed U.S. Marines and kill our Ambassador in Libya, does anyone really think that they are safe sailing on a Holland America Line or Princess cruise ship sailing into Tunis or Port Said?