December 3, 2008
Passengers say cruise ship that eluded pirates had acoustic defense
An American-owned cruise liner that outran would be hijackers on November 30 in the Gulf of Aden likely used a Long Range Acoustic Device as part of its antipiracy measures. And what finally deterred the pirates may well have been the intervention of a helicopter from a French warship.
According to the version of events published by Oceania Cruises, on November 30, 2008, at approximately 0928 local time, 0528 GMT, M/S Nautica was transiting through the Gulf of Aden within the prescribed Maritime Safety Protection Area. "As the vessel sailed past several groups of non-hostile fishing vessels, two small skiffs were sighted by the Officer on Duty and deemed potentially hostile. The skiffs, approaching from a range of approximately 1000 meters, attempted to intercept the vessel's course. Captain Jurica Brajcic and his officers immediately began evasive maneuvers and took all prescribed precautions. Nautica was immediately brought to flank speed and was able to out run the two skiffs. One of the skiffs did manage to close the range to approximately 300 yards and fired eight rifle shots in the direction of the vessel before trailing off. No one aboard Nautica was harmed and no damage was sustained."
Oceania Cruises noted that "all anti-piracy precautions were in place prior to the event and all necessary measures were taken during the event."
Today, an Associated Press reports quotes several passengers as saying the Nautica had used an acoustic device to ward off the attack, and at least two passengers described hearing two "boom" sounds after the pirates fired their rifles.
The passengers had been briefed before the cruise got under way on the acoustic device's importance to the vessel's defense.
"We had been reassured that they had these ghetto blasters that would go through them," said Lynne Pincini, of Australia.
According to several other reports, a French warship which was alerted by the Danish Navy that the Nautica was under attack sent a helicopter to chase away the pirates.
If Nautica deployed an LRAD against the pirates, it would not be the first use of such a device by a cruise vessel. In November 2005, pirates opened fire on the Seabourn Spirit about 100 miles off the Somali coast. The cruise ship used its speed to escape and used an LRAD to distract the pirates.
Last month, however, Seabourn Spirit took a more cautious approach to transiting the area. It and the geophysical vessel CGG Alize were given protection through the Gulf of Aden by the French frigate Nivose, which also put armed security details on board both ships. It is unclear how heavily armed the security detail on board the cruise ship was, but the detail on board the CGG Alize brought along at least one heavy machine gun.