Passengers leave Italian-flagged ship in Gulf of Aden
Passengers have left an Italian-flagged cruise ship, the Vistamar, while it sails through the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden with a reduced crew, the German owners said Friday, dpa reported.
The Vistamar is the second ship after the Bahamas-registered Columbus, owned by the Hapag-Lloyd company of Germany, to offload tour passengers in Yemen while it runs the pirate gauntlet.
Vistamar's owner, Plantours & Partner of Bremen, said about 200 passengers would spend three days making a land visit to Yemen.
The German government has rejected calls from the cruise industry for convoy protection through the Gulf, arguing that the boats do not fly the German flag. Plantours requested protection because it flies a European Union flag and carries German passengers.
Oliver Steuber, chief executive of Plantours, said Vistamar flew the Italian flag.
He said the German government had written back to his company with a travel warning and told Plantours it would be taking an "unjustifiable risk" if it ignored the warning and took passengers through the waters near Somalia.
"They did not offer us any proposals to solve the problem," he said in Bremen.
On Wednesday, Columbus put passengers ashore to fly to Dubai. They were expected to re-embark on the Columbus in an Omani port, Salalah, to continue their holiday.
Somali pirates have attacked dozens of vessels this year, capturing a number. Among those currently being held to ransom is a Saudi oil tanker carrying a reported 100 million dollars' worth of crude oil.
The European Union has formally begun Operation Atalanta, a naval patrol operation in the Gulf, but says it is mainly to protect cargo boats carrying relief to Somali ports.