Cruise ships travel right across the world and from time to time they must cross ‘pirate-infested waters’! We are no longer referring to the Jack Sparrow-type of pirate but of course, Somali pirates, who are active in the Gulf of Aden. Cruise ships passing through this area must take extra precautions to ensure the safety of their passengers and today on Spectrum of the Seas, I experienced a Safe Haven drill as the ship approached the Gulf of Aden.
It is highly unlikely that pirates would be able to board some of the larger cruise ships, like Spectrum due to the height of the Promenade decks but smaller cruise ships have been attacked in the past.
In 2005, Somali pirates fired AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades at the luxury cruise ship, Seabourn Spirit, in an unsuccessful highjacking attempt. The cruise ship was able to fend off the pirates with water cannons.
In 2009, MSC Melody was attacked by pirates but some of the passengers, who spotted the skiff approaching, managed to throw some of the pool furniture at the pirates to stop them boarding the ship.
The following precautions are being taken on Spectrum of the Seas during its time in the Gulf of Aden:
- The Promenade Deck (5) is closed throughout the passage
- The open pool decks are closed at night
- Passengers have been asked to close their stateroom curtains and keep lights off from dusk
- Tables in the Windjammer buffet have been moved away from the windows
- A ‘Safe Haven’ drill has been carried out so that passengers know what to do in the event of a potential attack
- Armed security officers have been brought onboard the cruise ship to protect the ship and its passengers
Safe Haven Drill
On the announcement of the code word ‘Safe Haven’ over the cruise ship tannoy, passengers are instructed to move away from windows and outside areas of the cruise ship to head towards the middle of the ship.
Today, we took part in this drill and immediately afterwards the Promenade Deck was closed. This will stay closed until 2nd May when the cruise ship is out of the danger area.
I spoke to one of the crew members, who was able to inform me that they were about to welcome three armed security officers onboard. Spectrum of the Seas had already one member of this team, totalling four skilled security professionals. The three additional security officers were being transferred from Explorer of the Seas (which has just sailed through the Gulf of Aden). The officers from Britain are highly trained and experienced in dealing with potential pirate attacks.
The Captain was also happy to inform us that the Spectrum of the Seas has the latest technology and engineering to be able to detect pirates and the capability to accelerate away from potential threats.
Although the whole experience seems slightly surreal, it’s reassuring to know that every precaution is being taken to protect the cruise ship and its passengers. Cruise ships take this route frequently, especially when repositioning, and although there has been reports in the past of pirate attacks, the chance of anything serious happening is very slim.