26 April 2009

Somalia: Cruise Ship Repels Pirate Attack

Pirates who tried to hijack an Italian cruise liner off the Somali coast were repelled on Saturday night.

The European Union's Maritime Security Centre (MSC) reports that the hijack attempt took place when the ship, the Melody, was 500 miles east of Mogadishu and 200 miles north of the Seychelles.

The vessel's operator said the pirates had approached the ship in a small speedboat firing automatic weapons, reported the shipping news website, Fairplay-Lloyd's Register. But the ship successfully took evasive action.

The BBC reports the ship's captain as saying that the pirates had been scared off by armed security guards on the ship who fired into the air. He also said crew members used fire hoses against pirates who tried to board the Melody.

About 1,000 passengers and 500 crew were on board at the time.

A day earlier, a 31,000-ton German-owned grain carrier was hijacked in the eastern end of the Gulf of Aden. The MSC said the 17-man crew was believed to be unhurt.

Fairplay also reports that a chemical tanker, the Stolt Strength, has been released by pirates after it and its 23-member crew were held for six months. After being provided with food, medical aid and fuel by German and American naval ships, it is now sailing away from Somalia escorted by a Chinese frigate.

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