An Italian cruise ship carrying armed Israeli security guards successfully fought off a hijacking attempt by Somali pirates last Saturday, April 25, 2009. The MSC Melody, a 670 foot Italian flagged cruise liner, was carrying 991 passengers and 536 crew members when it was attacked by a speed boat carrying six men armed with Kalashnikow rifles. When the pirates attempted to board the liner using a ladder with hooks, the crew sprayed them with fire hoses and he Israeli security guards opened fire with small arms. The pirates backed off but continued to follow the ship for about 20 minutes firing at it. The pirates left when a Spanish Naval Ship appeared on the scene.
This incident is believed to be one of the first times a non-military ship with private security guards has used guns to repel a pirate attack. Generally ships with guns onboard are barred from docking at non-military ports, a fact that is well known to Somali pirates. However, as in this case, to get around this restriction some vessel owners are hiring private security forces to board as a ship enters dangerous waters and then debark when the ship has passed beyond the danger area.
Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas in a video speech said: " We shouldn’t say that they (commercial vessels) can’t carry guns." He further stated that ship operators need to take responsibility for the safety of their vessels, crews, and passengers.
The avoidance of a hijacking putting more than 1500 people in danger by simply hiring a few armed guards should show policymakers the total absurdity of making ships sail unarmed into dangerous waters.