French cruise line Compagnie du Ponant remains hopeful that it will return to the Maldives and the Seychelles, but only when problems with pirates in surrounding waters improve.
International sales director Stephen Winter toldTravel Today¬†the cruise line had axed visits to the Indian Ocean destinations in 2011 due to prevalence of pirates in the area.
The move followed the 2008 seizure of its 64-passenger¬†Le Ponant¬†by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden. The pirates held the ship and its 30 crew members hostage for three weeks, with the vessel only released when the company paid a $2 million dollar ransom.
“It’s not a fast ship and it’s easily accessible, so we can’t go there anymore which is a real shame,” Winter said. “We might go back if the situation improves, but right now, it’s still very dangerous to be there in a ship like that.”
According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), in the Gulf of Aden and off the east coast of Somalia as of November 20, there were 71 incidents of piracy and 13 vessels hijacked with 212 hostages in 2012.
“While attacks by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean have fallen to their lowest level since 2009, these waters are still extremely high-risk and all travellers should avoid the area,” the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Smartraveller website warned.
Foreign minister Bob Carr last year dedicated a further $2 million in Australian assistance to help tackle piracy in the Indian Ocean.