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Piracy and Yacht Charter PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kim Kavin   
Monday, 13 April 2009 07:06

The news here in the United States has been flooded all weekend with stories about the American commercial shipping captain whom pirates took hostage off the coast of Somalia. (Here's the latest about his rescue.) Computer-generated graphics incessantly detail the attack on the Maersk Alabama, always alongside the words "danger on the high seas" or something just as scary-sounding.

Inevitably, when these high-profile pirate attacks occur, I receive a flood of questions about pirates and yacht charter. I'm not sure why, but people thinking about charter for some reason believe that pirates attacking commercial ships off the coast of Africa are a threat to safe boating vacations in Europe and the Caribbean.

The truth is that piracy rarely affects charter yachts. And by rarely, I don't mean a few times a year. I mean that I've heard of such incidents only a few times in nearly a decade of covering the global charter industry--with each incident turning out to be an isolated event, as opposed to a trend. Piracy simply is not a major concern among charter yachts operating in traditional cruising destinations, including the Western Mediterranean and Caribbean.

Having said that, I can tell you that what's happening off the coast of Somalia is most certainly affecting the growth of some emerging charter markets, including those in the Seychelles, Maldives, and Thailand. It's not that those three destinations are unsafe in and of themselves. Let me be crystal clear on that. I have been to all three--including both the Maldives and Thailand in the past six months or so--and I found nothing but sun and fun in the cruising grounds themselves.

The problem is that the pirate attacks off Africa's east coast are making charter yacht owners reluctant to move their boats from the summer charter grounds in the Western Med down into the Indian Ocean for the winter season. As you can see on this map, the cruising route is right through the heart of the current piracy troubles:

 piracy map

Again, this poses absolutely no threat to people like you, taking charter vacations. When charter yachts are moved ("delivered," in industry-speak) from one location to another, guests are not onboard. It's only crew, and sometimes a skeleton crew at that. 

Yacht owners do have the option of bringing security specialists onboard for moves through places like the coast of Somalia, but many owners simply decide not to take the chance. The charter business in up-and-coming destinations such as the Seychelles, Maldives, and Thailand simply isn't big enough to risk a pirate attack during transit. Many yacht owners instead sit their yachts at the docks in the West Med all winter, or move them in the other direction, across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean.

For you, as a charter client, the upshot is fewer options for crewed yacht charter in places like the Seychelles, Maldives, and Thailand. And because of that, I'm as hopeful as the next person that the piracy problem will be solved soon, so that these beautiful charter destinations can begin to fully emerge on the world market.





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