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No Maltese on liner attacked by pirates

The Italian cruise liner MSC Melody had to use guns and a fire hose to beat off an attack by pirates off the east African coast, yesterday.

The Italian cruise liner MSC Melody had to use guns and a fire hose to beat off an attack by pirates off the east African coast, yesterday.

There were no Maltese passengers on the MSC Melody cruise liner that managed to fend off a pirate attack in the Seychelles yesterday morning, leaving the passengers and crew safe and sound.

None of the 1,000 passengers and 500 crew members onboard the 35,143-tonne ship was injured after armed Israeli guards, hired for the passengers' protection, opened fire on six pirates that approached on a white speed boat.

The ship was 200 miles north of the Seychelles and 500 miles east of Somalia when the pirates approached and opened fire on the liner, according to various media reports.

In comments to the Italian media, Captain Ciro Pinto explained that it was inevitable that the pirates would catch up with the Melody because they were on a very fast speedboat.

The crew ordered the passengers to clear the decks and take shelter in their cabins while private Israeli security forces opened fire on the pirates, who unsuccessfully tried to board the ship using a ladder.

In an attempt to stop the pirates from climbing aboard, the crew sprayed water on the boat as the cruise liner took on a rolling motion making it difficult for them to anchor the ladder.

Capt. Pinto said the weapons used by the security men were kept in a safe under the joint control of the captain and the security chief.

The ship was on a 21-night cruise off South Africa and, accompanied by a military ship, is now en route to Aqaba.

Following several incidents of pirate attacks and hijackings in Somali waters, many cruise liners, including the Melody, changed their itinerary for the safety of their passengers.

Tour operator Norman Hamilton, who represents MSC in Malta, said the last time the MSC Melody berthed in Malta was two years ago. It used to be a very popular ship among the Maltese and for two years used to enter harbour every fortnight, he said.

Mr Hamilton pointed out that there was no cause for alarm if travelling in other places.

The pirate attacks were limited to the Somali region and cruise liners had changed their itinerary to ensure enhanced safety, he said.

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