Monday, 14 March 2011

Brecon couple speak of Indian Ocean pirate drama

A couple have spoken about how Somali pirates tried to attack their luxury cruise liner in the Indian Ocean.

Garth and Mary Evans, from near Brecon, had just sat down to dinner on the Spirit of Adventure when they were forced to take refuge in a room.

The ship was steaming between Madagascar and Zanzibar in Tanzania when it came under attack 50 miles from land in January.

But a "well prepared" liner and crew deterred the pirates, the firm said.

Somali pirates have made millions of dollars by capturing cargo vessels in the shipping lanes around the Horn of Africa and holding the ships and crew for ransom.

But stricter naval patrols in those waters have led pirates further afield.

As they have expanded their area of operation, surveillance of the Indian Ocean has been stepped up.

A recent US study found that maritime piracy costs the global economy between $7bn (£4.4bn) and $12bn (£7.6bn) a year.

Mr Evans said the 350 passengers on board Spirit of Adventure had just sat down to dinner when the captain was called to the bridge.

It later emerged that an unidentified craft had been picked by the ship's radar. It had come over the horizon and was heading towards the liner at speed.

As the cruise ship changed course, so the craft changed course to match it.

Mr Evans said it did not take long for the situation to spark a full-scale operation by the 200-strong crew.

He said: "After about two minutes we heard over the tannoy: 'Papa, papa. All crew to emergency stations'.

"We were all rather alarmed and then after a minute we were all called to the lounge and locked in."

Mr Evans said the captain had briefed passengers at the start of the cruise that pirates had started to focus their attacks in areas south of the equator, because there were so many warships patrolling north of the equator.

He added: "We had some reports on the tannoy that unidentified crafts were trying to board the craft.

"We knew we had water cannons on board, razor wire around the back of the ship and we were trailing wire ropes on the back of the ship to foul their propellers.

Company spokesman Paul Green the "relevant authorities" were alerted as soon as the emergency began.

He said: "We don't know who these people were but they saw that the ship was well prepared and it was also a cruise ship, which is not their typical target.

"It was clearly a suspicious craft. When you change course, they changed course.

"We have some well rehearsed measures on the ship, although it interrupted dinner.

"We don't talk about the measures but they have been widely reported - razor wire, changing course, water cannon, long-rang acoustic devices and trailing mesh wire.

"It passed off without incident and was dealt with in a very British manner."

He said that the captain, Australian Frank Allica, was given a standing ovation when he next appeared before the passengers, who gave him a rendition of "For he's a jolly good fellow".

He added: "Who knows what this vessel was interested in. But pirates tend to target tankers and ransom them for their cargo.

"Taking on 200 crew and some 300 mostly British passengers is a slightly different prospect than a slow-moving tanker with 14 Ukrainian engineers."

Mr Evans said: "After about an hour we were allowed back into the dining room."

Mr Evans said he and his wife were glad to return home in one piece.

He added that they would go on a cruise again, but probably not in the same part of the world


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