Tuesday, April 28, 2009

MSC Melody - Fends Off Pirates.

ROME – An Italian cruise ship with 1,500 people on board fended off a pirate attack far off the coast of Somalia when its Israeli private security forces exchanged fire with the bandits.
Six men in a small, white Zodiac-type boat approached the Msc Melody at about 1730 GMT Saturday and opened fire with automatic weapons, Msc Cruises director Domenico Pellegrino said. They retreated after the security officers returned fire and sprayed them with water hoses. The ship continued its journey with its windows darkened.

"It felt like we were in war," the ships commander, Ciro Pinto, told Italian state radio.
None of the roughly 1,000 passengers and 500 crew members was hurt, Pellegrino said. The passengers were asked to return to their cabins and the external lights on board turned off.
Pellegrino said all Msc cruise ships around the world are staffed with Israeli security agents because they are the best trained.

The attack occurred about 200 miles (325 kilometers) north of the Seychelles, and about 500 miles (800 kilometers) east of Somalia, according to the anti-piracy flotilla headquarters of the Maritime Security Center Horn of Africa.

Lt. Nathan Christensen, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy 5th Fleet, said that last fall after the attack on a Saudi tanker more than 400 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia there had been "a definite shift in (the pirates) tactical capabilities."

"It's not unheard of to have attacks off the coast of the Seychelles, we've even had some in the past month," he said. "But at the same time, it is a sign that they are moving further and further off the Somali coast."

Separately Sunday, four Yemeni tankers escorted by a Yemeni coast guard boat on their way to Aden were attacked by pirates. Three of the ships escaped and coast guards captured five pirates and wounded two others, said Mohammed Abdul-Rahman, a senior official at the Overseas Shipping and Stevedoring Company. Pirates could only seize one of the tankers, the Qana. The Yemeni Interior Ministry said coast guards were trying to free it.

And the Turkish cruiser Ariva 3, with two British and four Japanese crew aboard, survived a pirate attack near the Yemeni island of Jabal Zuqar, said Ali el-Awlaqi, head of the Yemeni El-Awlaqi Marine company said.

"Pirates opened fire at the cruise ship for 15 minutes then stopped for no reason," he said, adding that the cruiser was heading to Aden, Yemen, to fix a broken engine.It was not the first attack on a cruise liner. In November, pirates opened fire on a U.S.-operated ship, the M/S Nautica, which was taking 650 passengers and 400 crew members on a monthlong luxury cruise from Rome to Singapore. The cruise liner was able to outrun the pirates. In early April a tourist yacht was hijacked by Somali pirates near the Seychelles just after having dropped off its cargo of tourists.

The Melody was on a 22-day cruise from Durban, South Africa, to Genoa, Italy, when the pirates attacked late Saturday, slightly damaging the liner, Pinto said.

"After about four or five minutes, they tried to put a ladder up," Pinto told Sky TG24. "They were starting to climb up but we reacted, we started to fire ourselves. When they saw our fire, and also the water from the water hoses that we started to spray toward the Zodiac, they left and went away."

"They followed us for a bit, about 20 minutes, and continued to fire," he said.
Cruise line security work is a popular job for young Israelis who have recently been discharged from mandatory army service, as it is a good chance to save money and travel.

"We have always had great faith in their capacity, they have always been very qualified," Pellegrino said of the Israelis, though he declined to give the name of the firm.

The Spanish warship SPS Marques de Ensenada met up with the Melody to escort her through the pirate-infested northern Gulf of Aden, the Maritime Security Center said. The cruise ship was headed as scheduled to the Jordanian port of Aqaba, returning to the Mediterranean for spring and summer season cruises. - Source - Associated Press

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