Pirates in Gulf of Aden

This item appears on page 22 of the February 2009 issue.

About 21,000 ships a year cross the Gulf of Aden, where there has been a sharp increase in pirate attacks on cargo ships plus four attempts on passenger ships recently.

In April 2008, the luxury yacht Le Ponant was taken. No passengers were aboard; the crew was held hostage until ransomed. On Nov. 30, Oceania Cruises’ M/S Nautica was attacked but outran the small boats. On Dec. 3, M/V Athena, owned by Classic International Cruises of Australia, was surrounded by small boats, but the crew repelled them with water cannons. On Dec. 4, some boats trailed German Transocean Tours’ M/S Astor, but a German Navy ship chased them off.

The European Union and several other nations have joined in an antipiracy mission, sending 10 warships and three aircraft to patrol. Japan, Germany, Russia, China, Iran and the US also have posted ships in the area.

The chaos in nearby Somalia is blamed for the increase in armed pirates. Several cruise companies have altered itineraries until the situation is proven safer.