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Passenger line put off from leaving Maldives due to piracy threat

08.01.2012 - An American luxury passenger line en route to the Seychelles is stranded in the Maldivian waters due to “piracy risk”, while the passengers depart to the Seychelles through airline flights, as reported by Hawwa Lubna from the minivan news.

Secretary General of Maldives Association of Yacht Agents (MAYA), Mohamed Ali, told Minivan News on Sunday that the passenger line had arrived on December 29 and was scheduled to leave the same day after a brief stop near Male’.

However, he said the cruise captain had decided not to leave with the passengers on board due to “security reasons”, as there have been several attacks by pirates near the Seychelles.

“To avoid the risk, the 67 passengers on board were taken to Seychelles via Qatar Airways and Emirates last week,” Ali said.

As the passenger line is subjected to a daily fee of US$600 as long as it stays in Maldivian waters, he continued, “we are trying to send off the passenger line as soon as possible.”

He noted that the crew is taking the necessary security measures to ensure safety from a possible pirate attack.

“There are some maritime security companies which provide security to large cruises or shipping vessels like these. So the passenger line is arranging security before departure,” he said.

Pirate activity is predicted to be higher during November to February, with the increased number of cruise ships and yachts travelling this time of the year, according to Ali.

Meanwhile, due to increase in the pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean and the frequent encounters with Somali castaways in Maldivian territory, maritime experts have speculated that the piracy threat is growing in Maldives.

However, the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) has steadily countered that the country’s territorial waters have not come under direct attack from piracy originating in Somalia.

MNDF Spokesperson Major Abdul Raheem earlier told Minivan News that despite small vessels originating from Somalia washing up in the Maldives’ territorial waters – often with engineering problems – no reported attacks or activities linked to piracy were believed to have occurred in the country.

According to the Foreign Ministry, 37 Somali “castaways” are under police custody and are waiting for repatriation. They had been joined by three other Somalis, discovered last month on board a small dinghy drifting near Gaaf Alifu Atoll.

Potential pirate threats remain a major problem in ensuring the security of the archipelago, which depends on tourism for as much as 90 percent of its economy.