The recent attempt by pirates to seize a cruise ship reminds many seasoned cruisers of similar incidents involving terrorists during the 20th Century.On October 7, 1985 the Achille Lauro was employed on a ten-day cruise. She was supposed to call at Alexandria in order to allow passengers to go to Cairo, and then rejoining the ship at Port Said. Only about half of the passengers went ashore, while the rest stayed on board to enjoy the ship. During the trip from Alexandria to Port Said, the ship was taken hostage by five Palestinian terrorists. This was the first time in history a passenger ship was hijacked like this. The terrorists showed their seriousness – and madness – when they killed the disabled American tourist Leon Klinghoffer, and threw him and his wheelchair overboard.
The Achille Lauro was hijacked in 1985.
The Egyptian authorities gave the hijackers permission to leave the area without harassment, and the Achille Lauro soon arrived at Port Said. The hijackers left the ship onto a tugboat and made a victory lap around the harbor. They left victorious in an aeroplane, but the American authorities would not accept this and forced the plane down over Sicily. The Egyptian government retained the liner in retaliation. Yet again, the Achille Lauro suffered the repercussions of a crisis that had a great effect on American-Egyptian relations. Eight days later, the Achille Lauro returned to her home port.
Noted travel writer Arthur Frommer comments on the current piracy crisis:
Raise your voice against piracy!
Arthur Frommer – San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday, December 14, 2008
You may or may not have read about a piratical attack in the Gulf of Aden (east coast of Africa, emerging from the Red Sea) against the Nautica of Oceania Cruises recently. Because the luxury vessel (sailing from Rome to Singapore) was able to outrun the pirate ship, the attack was thwarted and the world’s press has hardly taken note of the incident. But the rest of us should.
The fact that the world’s maritime nations have not ended the activities of pirates operating off the shores of Somalia is an astonishing failure. Instead of destroying the pirate ships and seizing their crews, various navies of the world have simply surrounded a Ukrainian freighter recently captured by the pirates while negotiations proceed to pay a ransom to them. Similar negotiations are under way to buy off the pirates who have taken control of a Saudi Arabian oil tanker.
But now the situation threatens not only the safety of freighters but the continued existence and safety of the passenger cruise industry. And there is every reason why cruise interests, the travel industry and we as travelers must now demand that the navies of the world take decisive action to end piracy, as they could so easily do.
Here is a matter for the United Nations, in which no ideological differences prevent members from joining together in such action. What is required is leadership from the United States (which has thus far been sadly lacking) and early attention from the incoming Obama administration.
The United Nations can, and should, organize a joint effort from the navies of several countries to board, search and inspect the many smaller vessels that sail off the coast of Somalia and thus prevent piracy from continuing. I, for one, am astonished that no such action – decisive action – has yet been undertaken. Though a theoretical safety zone has been established in the Gulf of Aden, the world’s navies apparently feel that the use of force against these pirates is simply unthinkable.
I am also convinced that the U.S. cruise industry, and the multitudes of people involved in the operation of cruises, could lead the way in pressuring the governments of Britain, Germany, France, Italy, the United States, Russia, China and India to direct their navies to do what is so obviously necessary and easily performed. Shouldn’t cruise industry officials be directly contacting the new administration to ask that steps be taken? Shouldn’t everyone in travel be agitating against this new threat?
Letters to the secretary-general of the United Nations, demanding that pirate vessels be destroyed and their crews arrested, can be addressed to: Honorable Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, 760 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017.
Although it is highly unlikely that he actually will see your letter, tabulations of such correspondence are presented to him daily, and your letter will add to the chorus of protests against the world’s failure to put an end to maritime piracy.
The same with respect to our own secretary of state. Write to: Honorable Condoleezza Rice (or, after Jan. 20, to Hillary Clinton), Secretary of State, 2201 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20520.