Ship lets passengers off to avoid pirates
They will rejoin cruise farther on
HODEIDA, Yemen - A cruise ship let off hundreds of passengers in Yemen yesterday so they could fly to the other side of the Arabian Peninsula and avoid the dangerous Gulf of Aden where pirates have attacked dozens of boats.
The M/S Columbus arrived in the western Yemeni port of Hodeida, where 420 passengers and crew got off the ship.
Some immediately flew on a charter flight to Dubai, while others first toured the Yemeni capital and mountain villages before flying to the glitzy Persian Gulf city, said Mohammed Abdel-Moghni, the head of the Yemen tour agency that handled their onward travel.
The German cruise liner then continued with a limited crew through the Gulf of Aden, where Somali pirates have targeted commercial ships, cruise liners, and yachts.
Pirates have attacked 32 vessels and hijacked 12 of them since NATO deployed a four-vessel flotilla in the region on Oct. 24.
They have netted more than $30 million in ransoms along Africa's longest and most lawless coast.
Also yesterday, a Philippine official confirmed that Somali pirates had freed a Greek cargo ship and its 19 crew members on Monday, nearly three months after it was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden.
Its 19 crew members - 17 Filipinos, one Chinese and one Ukrainian - were in "good health" and the Greek-owned M/V Captain Stephanos was sailing to Italy before proceeding to Greece, said Philippines Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos, citing a report by ship owners. He was unaware if a ransom had been paid to the pirates.
The M/S Columbus' passengers will spend three days at a five-star hotel in Dubai waiting to rejoin the 490-foot vessel in Oman's port of Salalah for the remainder of their six-month round-the-world trip, which began in Italy and ends in mid-May.
In Dubai, one of the ship's passengers said they were told of the change in plans a few days ago.
The trip "cost a lot of money, [and] it was more secure to do it like this. It's the best the company could do for us," said retired high school teacher Greinert Burkhard, of Hildesheim, Germany.