Piracy fears prompt German cruise ship to offload passengers
A German tour operator said Tuesday it was allowing passengers to disembark from one of its cruise ships before it sails through the Gulf of Aden out of fear of an attack by pirates, dpa reported.
Hapag-Lloyd said 246 German passengers and a large number of crew would leave the MS Columbus at a port in Yemen and fly to Dubai where they would spend three nights in a luxury hotel.
The MS Columbus would then sail without passengers through the waters between Yemen and Somalia, which have witnessed a spate of attacks by pirates on commercial shipping vessels.
The passengers would be flown by chartered plane from Dubai to Oman where they would rejoin the vessel.
A company spokesman declined to give exact dates but MS Columbus is due in the Yemeni port of Hodeidah on Wednesday and set to arrive in Oman on Saturday, according to its schedule.
The 144-metre-long vessel is on a world cruise. It was on its way through the Red Sea after passing through the Suez Canal.
The spokesman said the tour operator had decided to allow the passengers to leave the vessel after the German government turned down a request for a military escort through pirate-infested waters.
On Tuesday, the European Union deployed a naval task force off the coast of Somalia to protect vessels from threats by pirates.
Last week, a German warship warded off a suspected piracy attack on another German cruise ship, MS Astor, in the Gulf of Aden.
The frigate Mecklenburg-Vorpommern chased off two suspicious speedboats on November 28 with three bursts of fire from a machine- gun.
More than 60 incidents of piracy have been recorded in waters off the Somali coast and the Gulf of Aden in the first nine months of this year, according to the International Maritime Bureau.