When pirates attacked the Italian MSC Melody on April 25, 2009, during a 22-day cruise from Durban, South Africa, to Genoa, Italy, sailing over 1,000 miles off the coast of Somalia where was the captain? He was in the ship's bar, sucking them back and boasting about how safe the ship was so far from the Pirate infested coast of Somalia.
MSC would later say that MSC Melody was only 500 miles off shore, 200 miles north of the Seychelles.
While he was amusing the passengers in the bars with tales of bravado, his passengers were fighting off pirates on deck. Jules Tayler was there, and saw the horror unfold.
The attack began when a female passenger, Wyn Rowlands was leaning over the railing looking into the sea and noticed a small boat along side MSC Melody. The men were had a ladder and were beginning to board the ship. The woman yell out that pirate were along side, and other passengers came running to see.
At that point, at least one pirate was half way up the ladder. Other pirates were throwing grappling irons trying to use them to board the ship. That is when the passengers began throwing decks chairs off the balconies at the boarding pirates. One pirate got knocked off the ladder, falling into the sea.
After five or six minutes of the pirate trying to board and the passengers holding them off, the pirates seemed shocked that the passengers were fighting back, and began firing their AK-47 rifles at the passengers. One passenger was shot in the leg defending the ship. He was evacuated for treatment in a hospital.
It was about this time that somebody came into the bar hysterical, telling everyone the ship was under attack by pirates. The captain quit talking, and at that point he heard the gun fire and knew they were in trouble. Captain Pinto ran to the bridge, opened the safe, distributed the weapons to the crew, and ordered them to the decks to fight the pirates off. They arrived on the decks to help the passengers about six to eight minutes into the attack. One crew member was shot, the bullet grazing his head. The crew returned fire, only shooting into the air, not at the pirates and used the fire hoses to push the pirates away from the cruise ship.
Passengers say a hail of bullets were fired at them, perhaps a 100 rounds in all. And yet, once again, another cruise line says that the 991 passengers and 500 crew aboard were never in any danger. This claim is similar cruise line propaganda used after the Seabourn Spirit pirate attack.
Passenger Valerie Brooks "When we boarded the ship, we were asked to sign a disclaimer saying we didn't mind a 400-mile detour to keep away from pirates." They signed it, and never thought any more about it.
The threat was real. There were shattered windows in several cabins as the pirates fired an estimated one hundred rounds, trying to hit anything and everything. It is a wonder no passengers were killed.
When the captain became aware of the attack, he came over the public address system and told the passengers to lock themselves in their cabins, and not to come out. The ship in complete darkness, with all light out. Once the threat was over, passengers say the all-clear was not given. Passengers huddle in fear inside their cabin until morning, when a note was slipped under their door telling them the pirates were gone.
Shortly after the ship's passengers had helped fend off the attackers and the captain had alerted international warships, the satellite phone on the bridge rang. "You have been attacked, you need help," a man said in broken English. "Give us your coordinates and we will come to you."
Captain Ciro Pinto says that he thought the call was strange. The man on the other end of the line didn't want to give the name of his ship, so the captain refused to state the MSC Melody's position. Pinto took a wild path to try to shake the pirates, but some reports say that the pirates chased the ship for another 20 minutes, firing at it constantly.
Several days later nine suspected pirates were arrested in the area of the attack and turned over to officials in Seychelles. The ship was in Seychelles waters at the time.
Supporting Information & Resources:
Featured or New Cruise Ship Incidents
CBI Pirate Attack Investigations