[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Saturday, 5 November 2005, 18:17 GMT
Cruise ship repels Somali pirates
Seabourn Spirit
The ship was on a cruise from Alexandria in Egypt
A cruise ship sailing off Somalia has beaten back gunmen in speedboats who opened fire on it in an apparent pirate attack which terrified passengers.

At least two boats closed in on the Seabourn Spirit, firing automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades at the cruise liner.

But crew took evasive action, repelling the attackers without returning fire.

One crew member was lightly injured in the early-morning incident in waters notorious for pirate attacks.

'Rocket hit ship'

The Bahamian-registered ship was carrying 302 passengers and crew, most of them are believed to be Americans as well as some Britons.

"My daughter saw the pirates out our window," passenger Edith Laird from Seattle in the US told the BBC News website in an e-mail from the ship.

"There were at least three RPG that hit the ship, one in a stateroom four doors down from our cabin," she said.

They were firing the rifle and then fired the rocket launcher twice
Norman Fisher

Fellow passenger Norman Fisher, 55, from Hampstead Garden Suburb in London, said he had seen some of the attackers.

"One of them clearly had a rifle. Later I realised that two of them had rifles and one had some kind of rocket launcher.

"They were firing the rifle and then fired the rocket launcher twice. One of the rockets certainly hit the ship - it went through the side of the liner into a passenger's suite. The couple were in there at the time so it was a bit of an unpleasant experience."

The attack happened about 100 miles (160km) off the Somali coast.

The crew used an on-board loud acoustic bang to deter the gunmen, making them believe they were under fire.

A scheduled stop in Mombasa, in neighbouring Kenya, has been cancelled and the cruise, which began in the Egyptian port of Alexandria is now due to end in the Seychelles on Monday.

Attacks common

David Dingle, a spokesman for the Miami-based company Seabourn Cruises, said passengers were "somewhat surprised and shocked" when they woke to find the ship under attack at 0530 (0230 GMT) on Saturday.

"The passengers were mustered in a public room, told what was going on and reassured that we were fighting off the attack," he said.

"They were shocked but no passengers were injured whatsoever.

"We are extremely pleased that all the measures worked."

He added that the company had no reason to believe it was a terrorist attack and all the evidence pointed to pirates.

It appears to be the first attack on a luxury cruise liner in the area.

The Seafarers' Assistance Programme (SAP) is due to discuss the incident and its implications for tourism in the region on Monday, Kenyan SAP official Andrew Mwangura told AFP news agency.

Displacement: 10,000 tons
Length: 134m (440ft)
Width: 19m (63 feet)
Speed: 18 knots
Passenger capacity:208
Crew: 150
Source: Cruiseweb

At least 23 hijackings and attempted seizures have been recorded off the Somali coast since mid-March, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which has warned ships to stay as far away from the coast as possible.

Two ships carrying aid for the UN World Food Program were among the vessels attacked this year.

"The southern coastline is among the most dangerous in the world," said Mr Mwangura.

Somalia has been without a functioning central authority since 1991 when warlords took power after Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted.

Do you know anyone on board the ship? Send us your pictures and experiences using the link below:



21 Oct 05 |  Africa

26 Sep 05 |  Africa

09 Feb 05 |  Africa

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific