Seabourn Spirit


Evading Pirates

Modern Pirates On The High Seas


By James Donahue

Nov. 15, 2005


The publicized attack on the Carnival Cruise Line ship Seabourn Spirit last week appears to be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to pirating on the high seas.


That the cruise liner was equipped with a modern long range acoustic device (LRAD) developed as a military weapon and used to repel the raiders is a clear indication that a pirate attack was not only expected, it has become more common at sea than the public has been told.


It appears that pirating has been a big business at sea in recent years but the story has been hushed up for fear that the information would frighten customers away from the cruise line business.


What happened to the Seabourn Spirit was enough to frighten the passengers all right. Two open boats, apparently launched from a mother ship, approached the liner with machine guns and a grenade launcher firing. They were attempting to force the unarmed liner to stop and be boarded.


The crew, however, turned on the sound machine and used it to drive off the invaders. The LRAD is said to be loud enough to break ear drums of anybody within a few hundred feet of the direction of the sound blast. It did not affect the passengers aboard the ship because it was pointed at the pirates.


They said the captain of the liner, Sven Erik Pedersonand stood on the bridge in his bathrobe, giving commands, as the Seabourn Spirit attempted first to ram the raiders. Then the liner escaped by changing course and racing off at full speed.


The worst that happened was that one member of the liner’s crew was hit by flying shrapnel and an unexploded grenade was found lodged in a wall on the superstructure. It had to be removed by explosive experts after the liner made port.


The crew and passengers on the liner was lucky. Other ships caught in the same area off the East African coast in recent weeks have not been as fortunate, one news report stated.


Reuters News said it has learned that five vessels were attacked in that same area within the past week. An estimated seven ships have been commandeered by the pirates and the crews are still believed to be held captive or possibly murdered after the ships were plundered, according to sources.


It is believed the pirates are operating from a “mother ship” that is prowling the busy Indian Ocean corridor.


This unnamed and unidentified “mother ship” has been spotted three times since late July drifting off the northeast coast of Somalia. It is believed to be the vessel that launches the speedboats that attack the ships on the open sea.


A major trade route passes just off the coast of Somalia. Passing vessels are carrying key commodities like oil, grain and iron ore from the Gulf and the Red Sea down to the Mozambique Channel. Thousands of merchant ships follow this route on their way to the Cape of Good Hope every year.


This particular gang of pirates has become so threatening that the world’s largest shipping companies have called upon the U.N. International Maritime Organization and the U.N. Security Council to urgently address the problem.


“Insecurity off the Somali coast has escalated sharply - - it is very worrying,” said Andrew Mwangura, of the Kenyan Seafarers’ Association. He said he knows of nine ships that have been seized to date.


The Reuters report said 32 pirate attacks have been recorded in the area since mid-March, including raids on ships carrying supplies for the U.N. World Food Program.


Mwangura said more than 100 crew members from nations all over the world are known to be held at this time for ransom.


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