al Qaeda - Cruise Ship - Execute PassengersThere is a disturbing story today in CNN entitled "Documents Reveal al Qaeda’s Plans to Seize Cruise Ships .  .  ."  The CNN article explains that an al Qaeda operative was caught with encoded digital data which, once deciphered, revealed some of the terror group’s "most audacious plots and a road map for future operations."  

The terrorist group had far reaching plans to conduct operations in Europe and to kill cruise ship passengers as part of its reign of terror. 

The CNN article was based on the work of investigative journalist Yassin Musharbash, a reporter with the German newspaper Die Zeit, who was the first to report on the documents.  The CNN articles states: 

"One plan: to seize passenger ships. According to Musharbash, the writer "says that we could hijack a passenger ship and use it to pressurize the public."

Musharbash takes that to mean that the terrorists "would then start executing passengers on those ships and demand the release of particular prisoners."

The plan would include dressing passengers in orange jump suits, as if they were al Qaeda prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and then videotaping their execution."

Al Qaeda -Terrorism USS Cole - Cruise Ship TargetsAre cruise ships prepared to deal with a well organized attack by a jihadist terrorist organization?  

The idea is not theoretical or far-fetched.  After all, the PLO hijacked a cruise ship 25 years ago and killed and threw an America passenger overboard:  The Death of Leon Klinghoffer on the Achille Lauro Cruise Ship – 25 Years Later  And our U.S. Navy lost several dozen sailors who were blown up during the attack on the U.S.S. Cole by an al Qaeda group (photo right).

May 1, 2012 Update:  Former Director of Security at Princess Cruises, Commander Mark Gaouette, left a comment below, pointing out that Islamic extremists have taken steps to target cruise ships over the past decade. Commander Gaouette has also worked for Homeland Security and is an expert on the subject of cruise ship safety and the threat of international terrorism.  

Gaouette authored a best selling book "Cruising for Trouble: Cruise Ships as Soft Targets for Pirates, Terrorists, and Common Criminals" which explains that cruise lines are not taking adequate steps to protect passengers from harm.  One reviewer stated: "The chapters about terrorism were so interesting it was hard to put down and should raise some serious red flags with the cruise industry. I think this book should represent a real sea-change of how security and safety on these vessels is regulated by the governments of the world, marketed and perceived to you and me the consumer, and how the cruise line industry conducts their business in general." 

The South Florida Business Journal covered the story today, stating: "The Coast Guard, cruise ship and facility operators, and law enforcement officials generally believe waterside attacks are a concern for cruise ships," a 2010 General Accounting Office report said. "Agency officials and terrorism researchers also identified terrorists boarding a cruise ship as a concern." 

Here is the CNN video:



Do you believe that the cruise industry has done enough to protect passengers from terrorism, or are cruise vacationers sitting ducks?  Please leave a comment below.

  • cumme

    The cruise industry will cover this story up as much as possible. From what we see and hear about security on ships, i doubt whether ships are prepared to deal with any attack of this kind, very very worring. please keep us up to date. Regards.

  • Mark Gaouette

    Jim, this is in my lane.

    My research on the subject indicates that al Qaeda (or rouge elements affiliated with such groups) have always had a plan to attack cruise ships. Just look at al Qaeda prince of the seas, Abd al-Rahimal Nashiri, who masterminded the USS Cole attack as well as the French oil tanker Limburg. He also had plans to attack the QM2 before the U.S. military captured him in November 2002. He has been kept at Guantanamo since that time and his trial for the USS Cole bombing has been postponed because of President Obama’s decision to reconsider the so-called water-boarded suspects. During his interrogation, al-Nashiri admitted to planning to hijack a plane and crash it into a ship.

    Other plots by al-Qaeda to attack cruise ships include the little known case of al-Qaeda operative Sakra who confessed in planning to use speed boats loaded with explosives and crash them into American and Israeli cruise ships headed to Turkey in 2005. He was arrested in Turkey after the explosives he was preparing for the attack exploded in his apartment in Antalya, Turkey. A previous attempt to attack cruise ships by Sakra in Turkey ended when the cruise ships cancelled their port call. Sakra diverted those explosives to Istanbul and bombed the British Consulate in 2003.

  • robert flynn

    Very little security on cruise ships

  • Louise Horton

    No they are not prepared, and probably will not be. As you know it is all about the $$$ for them. What ever happened to the Ear Piercing Sound device that is used to deter pirates? Again, the worlds nations need to address a different approach to ship security.

  • Marc

    Cruise lines have no criminal records of crew menbers,
    cruise lines have no genuine records of past education and professional history of crew menbers.
    Some positions onboard can join with fake professional letters…I KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT BY EXPERIENCE …
    So many crew today have a very low profile regarding education and professional skills…
    Why ?
    Job done for cheap money…who cares…
    Cruise lines always are hiring crew from poor and problematic country’s where murder and terrorism is a daily problem.
    Cruise ship’s are sailing close to poor and corrupt islands where we can buy the police etc…

    Everthing is posible

  • Fabio

    What i believe ?
    Cruise industry has done enought to protect them self,enought to screw up people.
    By the end they are very proud of all largest ship’s of the world to sitting ducks.

  • alexi acevedo

    There is better security in the greyhound hub terminal than there is in all Major cruise ships liner. It doesnt take much to sabotage the emergence rafts and to sink a ship with more than 3000 passengers. I guess the cruise liners think they are invisible because they are over water. THIS IS A NITGWHARE, waiting to happen.

  • BBear

    Looking at the YouTube videos of large fights on cruise ships, and the lack of security, and never seeing armed security, you have to think that a couple terrorists could get aboard any ship in port cause no one is armed to stop them!

    River cruises in Europe that stop at a different city every day seem to be a very soft target!

    I would like to cruise these river cruises in Europe, and in the Med., but have reservations on safety that keep me away from a volatile part of the world!

  • Having served as the Fleet Security Supervisor for Princess Cruises from 1997 – 2000, I can state that the answer to this question is a resounding NO! While, statistically, the passenger cruise industry is a safer and secure means of ‘travel’ than road, rail, or aviation, due to the nature of slow-moving international cruise vessel transit between multiple national jurisdictions, combined with the ‘captive’ nature of the passengers and crew on a cruise platform, complicates the nature of providing efficient and effective responses to victims of shipboard criminal or terrorist incidents.

    During that time I was with Princess I represented the company’s security interests with the IMO, Maritime Security Council, the State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) and the Executive Security Committee of CLIA’s predecessor, the International Council of Cruise Lines (ICCL). I can tell you from experience that, despite its stated ‘commitment’ to the safety and security of its cruise passengers and crew, the impact of the cost of preventive security equipment and services on revenue generation was always the primary concern.
    For example, most of the cruise industry today uses some derivative of the computer-based A-PASS access control and accountability system for monitoring passenger and crew access to cruise vessels, regardless of where they were in the world. This represents a significant degree of progress in the effective use of technology to enhance shipboard preventive security measure over the earlier analog ‘paper ticket’ system. However, while this is the industry standard now, when it was developed and first implemented on Princess’ vessels, it was done over the howling objections of a number of executives inside the company, and security directors of other ICCL member lines.

    Princess Cruises’ initial security team also submitted a program proposal to ICCL for the training and certification of shipboard security personnel in basic law enforcement crime scene investigative functions and techniques in 2000, a full decade before the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act was forced on the industry by Congress in 2010. This program proposal was reviewed by INTERPOL for that organization’s support and implementation, by all INTERPOL and ISPS Code signatory countries, of accepted incident notification, response, and follow-on investigative protocols for all victims of cruise criminal or terrorist incidents anywhere in the world regardless of nationality, an important measure that the CVSSA does not provide.

    In short, the cruise industry has a long way to go to ensure that the industry’s passengers and crew are afforded the same measure of basic, effective law enforcement and security functionality that is expected during their cruise. Unfortunately, the cruise industry seems to be maintaining the old pre-9/11 paradigm of waiting until a disaster occurs before taking ‘official notice’, before taking the least costly preventive and remedial measures possible… followed immediately by measures to aggressively mitigate any damage to individual corporate and the industry’s collective reputations.

  • Joe

    As a scheduled passenger on the upcoming Princess cruise to the Bahamas, it appears to me that Princess Cruise lines is taking a very casual approach toward what has the makings of a major castrophe.

  • Mary Lou Thomas

    I’m booked on a Panama Canal cruise in March and have to admit that during my last 2 cruises on Princess I wondered just how prepared the on board security people are – not just Princess,other cruise lines also.
    I know our luggage is checked for any liquor, is it also checked for weapons or any part of weapons?
    I feel petty safe going where this cruise is going,but I do feel that the cruise lines should pay attention to the world as it is today and be prepared.