Please let this be a joke.
According to several news sources, Russian yacht owners will begin offering “pirate hunting” vacations to those interested in wielding AK-47’s and shooting at pirates off the coast of Somalia.
Tickets aboard the ocean liners, which will cruise at about five miles per hour in an attempt to attract pirates, will cost about US$5,000, with AK-47’s and ammunition available for rent each day. The ships will be protected from pirates by private security guards made up of ex-special forces troops.
Not everyone is unfazed by this ridiculous, horrible idea. Russian yachtsman Vladimir Mironov says, “They are worse than the pirates. At least the pirates have the decency to take hostages; these people are just paying to commit murder.”
No doubt you’ve already heard about all the trouble on the high seas off Somalia’s coast. Armed-to-the-teeth pirates have been boarding ships and demanding hefty ransoms from their owners, which are often paid in full for the ship’s return.
The Guardian recently allowed one Somali pirate named Asad Abdulahi to tell his story, and the results were quite interesting. He says that he began hijacking fishing boats in 1998, and that the first ship he and his buddies captured netted them $300,000. (Count me in!)
But unsurprisingly, the gig is not without its danger. Says Adbulahi: “Sometimes when we are going to hijack a ship we face rough winds, and some of us get sick and some die.” (Count me out!)
He also offers a couple tips for all you would-be pirates out there, saying, “We give priority to ships from Europe because we get bigger ransoms. To get their attention we shoot near the ship. If it does not stop we use a rope ladder to get on board… After checking the cargo we ask the captain to phone the owner and say that [we] have seized the ship and will keep it until the ransom is paid.”
So how are some pirates justifying this practice? By calling themselves “heroes running away from poverty.” Adbulahi also says he likes to think of the piracy not as a criminal act but as a sort of road tax. “We will not stop until we have a central government that can control our sea,” he says.
Whole thing here. More from Gadling on pirates here.
Everyone was on edge aboard the MV Athena as it passed through the Gulf of Aden on Tuesday night, local time. The gulf has become a hot spot for pirate activity. Earlier in the week a large cruise ship on its way from Rome to Singapore, outran pirates after they opened fire from their skiffs. So when a group of boats surrounded the Athena, the captain ordered passengers off the deck as crew members prepared for the worst. The captain reported to the relevant authorities that 30 boats had surrounded his vessel.
However, no shots were fired and no attempts to board were made. That’s probably because the “pirates” were actually not pirates at all. They were fishermen in search of tuna. A spokesperson from Classic International Cruises Australia, the company that owns the Athena, explained the situation.
“The captain followed all security measures as far as readiness on board for any eventuality by placing fire hoses around the decks and continually liaised with all authorities. It has been confirmed that the approaching small ships were a tuna fishing fleet.”
The BBC recently ran a feature about the pirates who have been terrorizing ships off Somalia’s coastline. These pirates make their money by capturing ships of all sorts, from cruise ships to freighters, and demanding a ransom. Are these guys modern day eye-patch-wearing rum-lovers? According to BBC reporter Robyn Hunter, they are ambitious young men who have found a niche and are exploiting it to ensure that they live the good life in a troubled country where half of the population relies on foreign food aid to survive.
A resident of Puntland, the semi-autonomous coastal area from which the pirates operate, gave Hunter the lowdown on the attraction of the pirate life:
“They have money; they have power and they are getting stronger by the day…They wed the most beautiful girls; they are building big houses; they have new cars; new guns…Piracy in many ways is socially acceptable. They have become fashionable.”
But the heyday for these cowboys of the Gulf of Aden may be coming to an end. Shipping companies are planning on hiring security contractors to guard ships passing through the area. That will significantly lessen the chance of pirates being able to take a ship and its crew hostage without a fight. It is doubtful though, that the presence of a few armed contractors will lessen the lure of the easy money of the pirate life.