Piracy: Cruise ships take safer Africa route

2009-05-10 00:00

Luxury cruise liners are using a new route after recent pirate attacks on ships passing along the east coast of Africa.

This comes after the MSC Melody was attacked by Somalian pirates just 600 miles off the coastline almost two weeks ago. The cruise liner, with 994 passengers and 500 crew members on board, was on a 22-day cruise from Durban to Genoa when it was attacked.

Despite the Melody changing the ship’s itinerary to protect the passengers from pirate attacks by maintaining a greater distance from the coastline, pirates still launched an attack on the ship.

Quick thinking by the ship’s captain prevented the pirates from getting on to the liner.

To prevent more attacks, the owners have announced that their MSC Sinfonia will now travel a new route via West Africa after departing from Livorno in Italy for Durban. In a statement, the owners said the new route represents a “decisive action” to remove any threat to its passengers of attacks from Somali pirates.

The new route will see the cruise liner leaving Livorno, passing through the Mediterranean via Genoa, Monte Carlo and Valencia to Gibraltar and then Casablanca, Dakar, Walvis Bay and Cape Town before docking in Durban.

Starlight Cruises, the local operator for Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), said the route has been used by ships, but not as often as the east coast route.

The new west coast itinerary, north- and south-bound, has been designed to offer a stimulating and varied combination of city life, ancient sites, wildlife, beaches and beautiful landscapes. The Sinfonia arrives in South Africa in November.

Director of Starlight Cruises Clifford Foggitt said the new route is just a precautionary measure for passengers and will not change the passengers’ cruise experience.

He said the frequency of bookings has not changed since the Melody attack. “There’s been no fallout since the attack. People are still keen to go on a cruise, which is great for business,” he said.

Foggitt said that local cruises would still continue on the east coast as liners only go up to Barra Lodge near Mozambique before turning back to South African waters.

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