Italian ship repels pirate attack. 24- man crew unharmed after assailants open fire
Pirates Attack Italian Cruise Ship Off Somalia
Captain describes how boarders were repulsed
ROME - Its war. Ciro Pinto, a 50-year-old who has spent the past 30 at sea, never dreamed he would see anything like Saturday nights attack. Prudently, he had posted lookouts to back up the ships radar because you never know. Ciros Neapolitan sixth sense proved too much for the Somali pirates despite their Kalashnikovs, high-powered motors and doused searchlights. Little did they know that waiting for them among the drinks parties and dances was Ciro Pinto, a Neapolitan from Massa Lubrense, a devotee of Napoli football club, pizzas and the tang of the high seas. In a spot where pirates had never before made an appearance, 325 kilometres from the Seychelles, Captain Pinto was waiting, fire hoses at the ready, to blast them back down the side of the ship as they attempted to clamber up their hooked ladders. He rolled the vessel from side to side to shake the attackers off and set up anomalous waves to disorient them.
When six armed Somalis assaulted his cruise ship Melody, Ciro shivered with apprehension, more even than he had when a pirate brandishing a scimitar boarded his ship off South Africa. At least thats the way he tells it, marvelling at his own sangfroid. This time, it was very different. Captain Pinto recalls: There were six of them in a small white craft. They approached the port side of the ship and started blazing away. At that point, the ships security intervened and returned fire. We turned on the hoses. What with the water and the gunfire, it looked like a full-scale battle.
Ciro revealed how he felt only to his wife later on, when it was all over, reassuring her and their three children in the family home at SantAgata sui due Golfi. On board ship, he was calmness in person, despite screaming passengers rushing for cover below deck. Captain Pinto has a lot of experience to draw on. As a lad, he worked on small boats on the Amalfi coast before qualifying at the Sorrento nautical school. He grew to manhood at the helm of container ships and then moved on to cruise ships. When I was about seven, I was spellbound by the white uniform of a naval officer who sometimes visited our next-door neighbours. I used to play with his son. That officer is now my employer, the owner of MSC Cruises, says an almost emotional Ciro in a passengers blog as he tells the story of his most unforgettable experiences. These include his first seriously bad squall when he was 18, a storm that almost changed his mind about a career at sea. Then there was Harry the turtle, who made the voyage to the Indian Ocean in a stateroom before he was released into the wild. He also remembers coming to the rescue off Liberia of the crew of a yacht that had been lost during a regatta. The crew, who had no food or water left, were from Naples. Their first meal after the rescue was a pizza.
But it was all a little bit different last Saturday. Ciro explained to Corriere.it: We were expecting something in that area. Perhaps not straight away, but certainly after a few days. I went onto the bridge, where the safe is. We gave the guards side arms and switched off all the ships lights. The crew escorted passengers to their cabins and invited them not to come out for any reason until my announcement. In the meantime, the boat continued to loose off bursts of machine gun fire at deck level. The pirates didnt know but we had taken up our positions under cover of the darkness. When they approached, we turned on a fire pump. The hoses were already in place and the hydrants were turned on so all this seawater sloshed over the railing where the pirates had hooked a metal ladder and were climbing up. This was the diversion. In the meantime, Israeli security guards were opening fire. It was all too much for the pirates, who beat a retreat as Ciro muttered an ironic Remember me to your sister.
27 aprile 2009
English translation by Giles Watson