Cruise Ship Acoustic Hailing DeviceAccording to the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, cruise ships are required to have "acoustic hailing and warning devices" in certain high risk areas. These devices emit a high pitched noise that is directed toward approaching vessels and causes intense pain to the ears of the vessel’s occupants. 

The reason for this law is is to protect passengers and crew members from pirate attacks by repelling pirate skiffs from approaching and trying to board vessels on the high seas. You can read accounts of pirates attacking cruise ships here to see that the risk of such an attack is foreseeable.

Unfortunately, some cruise lines are not in compliance with this new law which was passed in 2010.

But today I read a press release indicating that a major cruise line has chosen to use HyperSpike Acoustic Hailing Devices (AHDs) to protect five cruise ships. The cruise line is not identified.

A newspaper in Oman published a report today indicating that a cruise ship, approximately 15 nautical miles off Masirah Island (east of Oman) "was aggressively approached by two skiffs suspected of belonging to Somali pirates" on November 23rd. The newspaper reports that the two skiffs ended their pursuit only when a shipboard private security team fired warning flares at the craft.

According to the Muscat Daily newspaper, "reports issued by multinational anti-piracy forces operating in the region state that the two white skiffs, a favoured attack craft used by Somali pirates, approached the unnamed cruise ship on Friday afternoon “in an aggressive manner.” The skiffs were equipped with a large outboard engine and each reportedly contained four persons on board."

Somali Pirates Attack Cruise ShipAccording to a report by the Oceanus Live monitoring centre, the embarked security team fired at least two flares at the first skiff, causing it to change direction, away from the unidentified cruise ship. A third flare was fired at the second skiff, resulting in both aborting their approach. 

The issue of pirates attacking and holding cruise passengers hostage is not far fetched.  Consider the following articles we have recently written:

Somali Pirates – A Threat To Cruise Ships?

Are Cruise Lines Taking Adequate Steps to Protect Passengers from Pirate Attacks?

Cruise Line Liability for Injuries to Passengers and Crew Members Caused by Pirate Attacks

Does anyone have information regarding this latest incident?

Does anyone have video or photos to share? (The photo above involves a prior pirate attack against a cruise ship).

Does anyone know the name of the cruise ship involved?

November 26, 2011 Update:  Cruise Critic states that the Azamara Journey was forced to take "evasive" action November 23 when the ship’s crew noticed several small boats quickly approaching the ship while sailing off the coast of Oman.

According to Cynthia Martinez, director of Global Corporate Communications for Azamara’s parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., "In an abundance of caution, the Captain took precautionary measures, which included asking that guests move to the interior areas of the ship, as well as evasive maneuvers."

"An abundance of caution?" Pirates were stalking the cruise ship! 

Fairplay published an interesting article (an excerpt is available here) about the International Maritime Organization’s ("IMO") "guidance" regarding the presence of armed guards on shipping vessels.

The IMO met at its offices in London last week and discussed the issue of protecting seafarers who are employed on vessels which are increasingly being targeted by pirates.  One of the issues discussed is the use of private armed guards.

Pirate - Terrorist - Cruise ShipFrom the cruise ship perspective, we have written about the dangerous current set of affairs where some cruise ships are sailing into Somali pirate infested waters where the few security guards had to use fake wooden rifles, deck chairs and water cannons to fight off pirates armed with rocket propelled grenades.  You can read about pirate attacks against cruise ships here:

Are Cruise Lines Taking Adequate Steps to Protect Passengers from Pirate Attacks?

Cruise Line Liability for Injuries to Passengers and Crew Members Caused by Pirate Attacks

Some cruise ships go as far as to install razor wire around the rails and position logs to be dropped on the pirates below if they run their skiffs up to the cruise ship.  You can see a photo of this spectacle here.    

The Fairplay article mentions that the IMO issued "guidance" on the use of armed guards on ships, but stresses that it is still not recommending them.  Instead it states that shipping companies should consider arming crewmembers or hiring private armed guards on board after conducting a risk assessment. 

The article also states that the IMO recommended shipping companies that all laws and regulations imposed by that flag state regarding the use of armed guard apply to their vessels. 

Of course, the problem is that most shipping companies and cruise lines register their vessels in countries which have weak or non-existent safety and security regulations.  Liberia for example has a large vessel registry.  Does it prohibit the arming of security guards on Liberian registered vessels?  How about Panama where Carnival registers their cruise ships?

If the flag states are silent about weapons on vessels, why not have a strongly worded "recommendation" from the IMO after it has conducted a comprehensive risk assessment of the dangers posed by pirates (as well as terrorists) to vessels?  A weakly worded "guidance" won’t accomplish anything. 

Just last week, the Associated Press published an interesting article entitled "Oil Tanker Terror Hijacks Easy, Attacks Complex" which explained how Osama Bin Laden was exploring ways to hijack a large super tanker filled with millions of gallons of oil or liquefied natural gas by imitating the tactics of Somali pirates who use small speedboat to overpower tanker crews in remote locations.

The risk to cruise passengers and crew is real, both from pirates and terrorists.  The IMO blew an opportunity to make a strong recommendation to arm the shipping community.  Instead, the vessels’ security will be left under the auspices of countries like Liberia.  Security guards will be left to fight the bad guys carrying AK-47’s with fake guns, deck chairs and water guns.

The Telegraph newspaper in the U.K. has a amazing article today by Richard Snailham about the Discovery cruise ship, operated by Discover the World cruise line, confronting a Somali speedboat as the ship sailed from Mombasa towards the Seychelles Islands. 

The good news is that the pirates decided not to try and board the cruise ship.  Mr. Snailham Pirates - Cruise Ship  attributes this happy ending to "rolls of razor wire all over the stern rail (and) bundles of logs to be released to fall on any craft attaching itself to our hull . . ."

The photograph taken of the cruise ship indeed shows the barb wire and a bundle of logs hoisted near the stern – ready to be dropped in such an emergency.  Look at the photo closely and you will notice logs tied below the railings, positioned to drop on any skiffs which dare to approach the cruise ship.   

This may be quite unsightly, but this cruise line understands that a pirate attack in the Indian Ocean is a real threat.  It’s better to install unsightly barb wire than to risk having the passengers and crew taken hostage by pirates with AK-47’s.        

I have written about this issue before in two articles:

Are Cruise Lines Taking Adequate Steps to Protect Passengers from Pirate Attacks?

Cruise Line Liability for Injuries to Passengers and Crew Members Caused by Pirate Attacks

Would you take your family on a cruise to or from Mombasa?


Photo credit:   Richard Snailham (Telegraph)

An article today by Wolfgang H. Thome of eTurboNews (ETN) raises two disturbing scenarios:

Somali Pirates - Balmoral Cruise Ship - Hijack - Attack1.  It is only a matter of time before Somali pirates hijack a cruise ship, and

2.  There are no plans in place to rescue the passengers when this happens.

The article is entitled "Somali Piracy – a Problem from Hell – What is the Naval Coalition Doing?" 

The article discusses the recent hijacking of a Saudi supertanker with 300,000 tons of crude oil by what Mr. Thome calls "Somali sea terrorists."  This recent attack occurred nearly a thousand miles off the coast of Somalia.  A so-called mother ship launched fast skiffs to intercept and capture the tanker. 

If Somali pirates can board a  supertanker on the high seas, there is no doubt that a cruise ship is Somali Pirates - Danger Zone - Hijacking Riskalso easy prey.  If pirates capture a cruise ship, there is the risk that they will execute passengers. 

What also disturbs the ETN correspondent is that no naval coalition vessels were dispatched to investigate, safeguard shipping and attack and capture the pirates.

When Mr. Thome asked officials what the naval forces would do should a passenger cruise ship fall into the hands of pirates, "there was little more than stunned silence."  He fears that it will take a major tragedy and loss of lives before there is a plan of how to deal with the sea terrorists. Until then, he concludes, "the problem from hell will persist."

I have discussed this issue in a prior blog entitled "Cruise Line Liability for Injuries to Passengers and Crew Members Caused by Pirate Attacks."  I have talked about pirate attacks on the Seabourn Spirit and the Balmoral cruise ships, and the failure of the cruise industry to take realistic steps to protect the passengers and crew. 

Neither of these unarmed cruise ships could match the pirates’ AK-47’s and rifles.  The Seaborn Somali Pirates - MSC Melody - Sitting Duck? Spirit used water hoses and the crew on the Balmoral brandished fake wooden rifles to try and scare off the pirates. 

When the MSC Melody cruise ship was attacked by pirates earlier this year, the first line of defense was the passengers’ throwing deck chairs to repel the pirates who were climbing up the side of the cruise ship.  In an article entitled "Cruise Passengers Fought off Pirates with Deckchairs," U.K.’s Telegraph reported how vacationing passengers fought off gun-wielding Somali pirates with deck chairs and tables when the pirates targeted their cruise ship near the Seychelles.

The cruise industry needs to get serious and provide the cruise ships with more than hoses, super-loud sound machines, and fake weapons. Otherwise, we will all be watching CNN broadcast the terrifying story of a dozen Somali pirates with automatic weapons and RPG’s holding a cruise ship hostage.



Balmoral cruise ship   MailOnline

Map          MailOnline Terror for 1,200 Britons as Somali Pirates with Rocket Launchers Attack Cruise Ship (Balmoral)

Melody cruise ship      Reuters via U.K. Telegraph

Today, six crew members filed a lawsuit seeking compensation for injuries sustained when the Maersk Alabama was hijacked by Somali pirates in April. The crew members sued Maersk Line Maersk Alabama - Pirate AttackLtd., the operator of the vessel, and Waterman Steamship Corp., the crewing company which hired them. They are seeking damages for physical and mental injuries and loss of income.

The seaman allege that Maersk failed to adequately provide for self defense before transiting through deadly waters. The lawsuit raises interesting issues regarding the liability of vessel owners and operators, including cruise lines, for injuries sustained during pirate attacks. 

Shipping companies and cruise lines face liability when they do not take reasonable steps to protect their passengers and crew members.  They are legally responsible when they fail to protect the guests and crew from risks which are known or reasonably foreseeable.

Pirate Attacks Are Forseeable But Shipping Companies Want to Save Money  

The risk of an attack by pirates, particularly from Somali is well known.  No cargo or cruise line Cruise Ship Pirate Attackcan argue with a straight face that an attack by pirates is unforeseeable. There have been literally hundreds of pirate attacks against a wide variety of cargo ships, cruise ships, and private yachts and sailboats in just the last few years. 

The problem is that many companies do not want to spend the money to hire security guards.  Or when they have security personnel, they do not permit them to have firearms to protect the passengers and crew.  Many of the cruise ships cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but the cruise lines refuse to pay an extra $50,000 a year to hire a couple of extra guards and equip them with weapons to fight off the heavily armed pirates. 

Many shipping companies think that they can save money by having virtually no security personel, and then ask the U.S. Navy to patrol the waters or come to the rescue after the ships are attacked by pirates.  The Houston maritime lawyer representing the six crew members, Brian Beckcom, states that "Maersk made a conscious decision, despite going into pirate-infested waters, not to provide any meaningful security for its workers.  Instead they’d just rely on the taxpayers and U.S. military to bail them out after the fact." 

The filing of the lawsuit comes a day after the the Maersk Alabama was attacked by pirates off of East Africa for the second time in seven months. On November 18th the pirates again attacked the vessel, but this time the crew members successfully fended off the attackers because they had armed guards who returned gunfire. The vessel did not carry armed security during the first attack.

Seabourn Spirit Security Officer Michael Groves - Bad Ass There have been a number of highly publicized pirate attacks against cruise ships in the last few years. 

Pirates Love Cruise Ships – Attack Against the Seabourn Spirit

In November 2005, two speedboats full of pirates attacked the luxury cruise ship Seaborne Spirit, cruising about 100 miles off the coast of Africa. They began to board the cruise ship.  Security Officer Michael Groves battled them off with a water hose, and the pirates responded with rocket propelled grenades and AK-47’s.   Officer Groves’ bravery and grit defeated the heavily armed pack of pirates, and the vessel’s passengers and crew were saved.  The Queen of England honored Officer Groves with a medal for his bravery.

If you are interested in this story, I suggest reading "Bad Ass of the Week- Michael Groves."   

Although the story ended happily for the Seaborne Spirit’s passengers who continued on with their luxury cruise, the fact of the matter is that the owners of the cruise ship (Carnival) had irresponsibly jeopardized the passengers and crew members by sailing into well know dangerous waters with an inadequate number of security personnel who were completely unarmed.  Carnival also treated Officer Groves, who himself was injured by the pirates, quite shabbily and refused to compensate him for his injuries.    

Pirate Attack Against the Balmoral – Security Guards with Fake Guns 

Earlier this year, pirates repeatedly attacked the cruise ship Balmoral. The cruise ship’s security employees were obviously ill equipped to handle the attack.  The Sun newspaper reported that the security guards were forced to to fashion "gun-shaped weapons from pieces of wood in the hope of Cruise Ship Pirate Attack - Balmoraldeterring the attackers."

The newspaper reports that one passenger e-mailed a boyfriend about the attack: "I stood on the deck and watched through binoculars at men in the fishing boat armed with AK-47 rifles and rocket launchers. They were 300-400 metres away. Last night a lot of the passengers – many are in their 70s and 80s – were in tears and frightened to death." 

The passenger also commented: "the security have made guns from wood – like that’s going to help!

Oasis of the Seas – A Pirate’s  Dream? 

The risks of pirate attacks against cruise ships are so well known that even Saturday Night Live joked about Royal Caribbean’s new mega-ship the Oasis of the Seas being attacked by pirates. The cruise community site Cruise Critic recently commented on Seth Meyer’s cruise joke on the Weekend Update segment.

"The 20-story-tall Oasis of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, began her maiden voyage this Oasis of the Seas - Target of Pirates?week. Five times larger than the Titanic, it has seven neighborhoods, an ice rink, a golf course, a 750-seat outdoor amphitheater, and please say guns to fight off the pirates. No? No guns to fight off pirates? Well, enjoy your new boat, pirates!"

Unfortunately. there will be additional pirate attacks against cruise ships.  The Oasis of the Seas cost Royal Caribbean $1,500,000,000. If Royal Caribbean and the other cruise lines don’t invest in reasonable security measures, such as additional security guards, weaponry, and anti-pirate devices, they will find themselves – like the Maersk Alabama – being served with lawsuits by injured passengers and crew members.



Maersk Alabama       AP/Azim

Pirates Attacking the Balmoral       News Group Newspapers Ltd.

Seth Meyers               Saturday Night Live (via Cruise Critic)