Friday, April 1, 2011


We made it safely past the pirate area in the Gulf of Aden.  Our crew took many precautions to protect us from Somali pirates, who take many ships hostage in this area, demanding ransom. 
During the two days that it took to pass through this area, we traveled in a convoy with several other ships, and we were accompanied by a Japanese Coast Guard ship on the rear and another coast guard ship in front.  The crew covered all of our windows with cardboard to make it more difficult to see our ship, and we were not allowed to go out on the decks after dark. 
If pirates tried to enter our ship, they would approach in small speed boats that are not visible on radar, and they would shoot ropes up to our decks, which they would then climb.  Our lowest open deck is on the seventh floor, and is usually used as a bar for crew members.  While we passed through the Gulf of Aden, the crew closed off this deck and also put razor wire around it, as you can see in the photo.  (The other photo shows the Japanese Coast Guard ship that accompanied us).  A bar for passengers is one deck higher, and every night crew members kept watch on this deck. 
We are safely through the area, and had no pirate incidents, although pirates were on everybody's mind.  In the daily ship newspaper there was an announcement for a "yoga and pirates" class, the typical Japanese mistake of mixing R and L.
While most of the world sees the Somali men who target ships in this area as pirates, the pirates see themselves as a volunteer coast guard.  Since Somalia has no Coast Guard, many foreign fishing vessels illegally take fish in Somalia's waters, and foreign ships have also been known to dump hazardous and even nuclear waste in Somali waters, causing environmental and health problems on shore.  Somali fishermen who could no longer make a living due to this illegal fishing and dumping have turned to piracy.  Their efforts have greatly reduced the illegal fishing and dumping, and have also lined their pockets.
But please don't worry - we are in safe waters now.  I will blog about our visit to Saudi Arabia soon, and you can look for my article on Peace Boat's website in a few days.  Our next stop will be Kochi, India!