According to an AP story, real-life piracy often sounds like a scene in a Hollywood blockbuster: Pirates hit a luxury cruise ship with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns off a lawless African country. The cruise crew tries to ram both pirate boats, uses an earsplitting high-tech weapon on the attackers and evades them.
That was the real-life situation the crew and passengers of the Seabourn Spirit found themselves in off Somalia last weekend. With piracy common in some areas and terrorism fears present after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, cruise lines say they train their crews and have security measures to respond effectively to these threats.
But security experts say that despite all the preparations, cruise liners are vulnerable to attacks like this one or the deadly bombing by al-Qaeda-linked militants of the USS Cole
in Yemen five years ago.
Cruise industry officials said the Spirit's successful efforts to repel the attackers validate security plans that all ships must have in place under U.S. and international law. They point out that no passenger was injured on the Spirit and just one crewmember had minor injuries.
It has also been questioned why the Spirit was about 100 miles off Somalia, which has no effective government and is ruled by warlords. The International Maritime Bureau has for several months warned ships to stay at least 150 miles away from Somalia's coast because of an increase in pirate attacks. Many cruise lines have tried to avoid the area, but vessels going from the Mediterranean to Asia or Africa must pass through there.
Source: USA Today, Associated Press