Cruise passengers flown to Dubai to avoid pirates

Published 9 December 2008

The owners of the German cruise ship Columbus decided on a new way to deal with piracy off the coast of Somalia: The 246 passengers were flown to Dubai to await the ship — and the ship itself, with but a skeletal crew, sail at top speed through the dangerous waters of the Gulf of Aden, hoping to avoid being raided by pirates

Here is a new way of dealing with the growing menace of piracy off the coast of Somalia: A round-the-world cruise liner is evacuating hundreds of passengers and flying them to Dubai rather than risk them being taken hostage by pirates in the Gulf of Aden. The Nation’s Tom Spender  writes that the 246 passengers and most of the crew of the German operator Hapag-Lloyd’s 15,000-ton Columbus cruise liner have disembarked in Yemen and will fly from the Red Sea port of Hodeida to Dubai where they will stay for three days in a five-star hotel. After their stay at the hotel, the passengers will be flown to Oman where they will rejoin the liner for the final leg of their journey back to Dubai.

In the mean time, the 490ft ship’s German captain and a skeleton crew will sail at top speed through the dangerous waters of the Gulf of Aden, hoping to avoid being raided by pirates. The mostly German tourists are expected to rejoin the cruise at the Omani port of Salalah on Sunday, a Hapag-Lloyd spokesman said. The round the world cruise was scheduled to end in Dubai on 17 December.

In a statement, Hapag-Lloyd said the evacuation was a precaution and called for the German Navy to do more to protect German shipping in the region. “The security of passengers and crew members is our highest priority. The company has for that reason taken the precautionary measure of flying 246 passengers and much of the crew to Dubai,” read the statement. “We are taking this precaution because of the political situation in the Gulf of Aden. In light of the German Federal Foreign Office’s travel warning for this area, Hapag-Lloyd will not be running any more ships with passengers on board through the Gulf of Aden. Hapag-Lloyd supports calls for stronger German Navy engagement in the Gulf of Aden.”

A Hapag-Lloyd spokesman said a request for German Navy to provide an armed escort through the Gulf of Aden had been refused because the Columbus was registered in the Bahamas and so was not technically a German boat.