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German cruise ship to fly passengers over pirate hotspot

  • Story Highlights
  • Passengers will fly to Dubai to continue their journey
  • Hapag-Lloyd: Involves 246 passengers, most of crew aboard MS Columbus
  • Prompted by travel warning for the area issued by German Foreign Ministry
  • United States, UK advise those traveling near Somali coast to use extreme caution
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BERLIN, Germany (CNN) -- A German cruise liner said Tuesday it plans to fly its passengers over the Gulf of Aden, instead of sailing them through, out of fear of pirate attacks in the region.

U.S. Navy image of pirates operating off coast of Somalia in October this year.

U.S. Navy image of pirates operating off coast of Somalia in October this year.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises said all 246 passengers and most of the crew aboard the MS Columbus, currently at the start of an around-the-world cruise, will disembark at an undisclosed port, then fly to Dubai to continue their journey.

The company called the move a precautionary measure.

Pirate attacks in the waters off Somalia have shot up this year, with pirates staging increasingly bolder attacks on ever-bigger targets. So far this year, pirates have attacked almost 100 vessels off Somalia's coast and successfully hijacked nearly 40, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

Freight and cargo ships, cruise liners, and private yachts have all come under attack. In many hijackings, pirates take the crew and passengers hostage while they demand a ransom.

The problem has forced companies like Hapag-Lloyd, that use the Gulf of Aden, to make new plans, including stepping up security or changing their routes.

One shipping company announced last month it would bypass the region altogether, sailing instead around the Cape of Good Hope and adding thousands of kilometers to its voyages.

Read more about how to solve the pirate problem here.

Hapag-Lloyd said a general travel warning for the area, issued by the German Foreign Ministry, played a part in the decision. But the company also said it had asked the German government for naval protection and the request was turned down.

Representatives of Hapag-Lloyd and the German Defense Ministry could not immediately be reached for further comment.

The passengers on board the Columbus began the first leg of their world cruise November 28 in Genoa, Italy and are due in Dubai on December 17, according to Hapag-Lloyd's Web site. Further stops include Singapore, Bali, Indonesia and Sydney, Australia.

Hapag-Lloyd said that after the passengers and most of the crew disembark, the Columbus will sail through the Gulf of Aden with a skeleton staff. The passengers will stay in a five-star hotel in Dubai for three days until the Columbus arrives to take them back onboard, the company said.

Both the crew and passengers approve of the safety measure, Hapag-Lloyd said.


The U.S. State Department and British Foreign Office advise those traveling near the Somali coast to use extreme caution because of the recent pirate attacks.

Last week, the Australian government issued a similar warning about travel to the region. The advice also urged Australian ships "to apply a robust and layered protective security regime" when traveling through the area.

-- CNN's Frederik Pleitgen contributed to this report.

All About International Maritime BureauSomaliaEuropean Union

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