Pirates attack US cruise ship, can't outrun it

According to the AP, pirates attempted to hijack an American cruise liner in the Gulf of Aden earlier today.  The ship outran the pirates in their skiffs after the pirates opened fire on the passenger vessel:

Pirates chased and shot at a U.S. cruise liner with more than 1,000 people on board but failed to hijack the vessel as it sailed along a corridor patrolled by international warships, a maritime official said Tuesday.

The liner, carrying 656 international passengers and 399 crew members, was sailing through the Gulf of Aden on Sunday when it encountered six bandits in two speedboats, said Noel Choong who heads the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center in Malaysia.

The pirates fired at the passenger liner but the larger boat was faster than the pirates’ vessels, Choong said. …

All passengers and crew are safe and there was no damage to the vessel, it said.

The Nautica was on a 32-day cruise from Rome to Singapore, with stops at ports in Italy, Egypt, Oman, Dubai, India, Malaysia and Thailand, the Web site said. Based on that schedule, the liner was headed from Egypt to Oman when it was attacked.

For those wondering why an American cruise liner came close enough to the area, here’s a map of the region:

In order to pass from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, ships have to traverse the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, and the Gulf of Aden.  Otherwise, they would have to go the long way around Africa, wasting time and energy rounding the Cape.  This one of the reasons pirates have based themselves in Somalia.  Along with the freedom a failed state gives armed thugs, all major shipping to southern Asia from the West has to pass through this relatively narrow feature.

As the AP notes, this isn’t the first time pirates have attempted this kind of operation on a cruise liner.  In 2005, the Seabourn Spirit made headlines not just for outracing the pirates, but also for its notable non-lethal weapon.  They aimed a long-range acoustic device — a kind of sound gun — that focuses extremely powerful sound waves on people in order to temporarily disable them.  That makes for a good getaway, but doesn’t do much to discourage pirates from attacking again.

The best method to discourage pirates is to sink their ships.  However, we have to make sure that the ship we sink actually belongs to pirates before sending it to the bottom of the ocean.