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Cruise vessel MSC Melody repels pirates in armed response

Cruise vessel MSC Melody repels pirates in armed response

Dubai: Cruise vessel MSC Melody fended off an attack by gun-firing pirates near the Seychelles Islands on Saturday night. The ship initiated avoidance procedures and quickly escaped with no injuries to the approximately 1,000 passengers and 500 crew members on board, MSC Cruises said in a statement.

The pirates approached MSC Melody in a small speedboat firing automatic weapons at 7:35 p.m. GMT, 180 nautical miles from Port Victoria. According to wire service reports, the attack was repelled by the ship's Israeli private security force, who exchanged fire with six attackers. Shots reportedly shattered some windows, and an attempt to board the ship by rope ladder was thwarted.

The presence of arms on a cruise ship is rare but not unprecedented. It is understood that a few other vessels are quietly taking similar precautions when transiting the Somali coast.

Asked about an industry policy on armed security personnel, a Cruise Lines International Association official told cruise specialist website Seatrade Insider: 'We do not have an industry policy. What we do is act as a communicator/facilitator for interactions with authorities. The lines' contingency plans are their own.'

MSC Cruises said it immediately informed the Italian government foreign office (La Farnesina), the Maritime Security Centre in London and the Coordination Center for Security in Dubai. A military vessel from the international security forces in the region has been sent to escort MSC Melody as a precaution, and MSC said the ship is continuing to Aqaba, Jordan, on its scheduled itinerary.

Earlier this month the company gave notice it was changing the vessel's repositioning voyage from Durban to Genoa to stay further from the areas troubled by piracy off the Somalia coast and in the Gulf of Aden. The new route, recommended by IMO and the Maritime Security Center for the Horn of Africa, added 400 miles to the course, maintaining a greater distance from Somalia. In early March, MSC made a similar route revision for MSC Rhapsody. [27/04/09]